This is the full text of Idaho County sheriff Doug Giddings’ speech as given to the Idaho legislature’s joint resource and conservation committees, on Feb. 3, 2014. This transcript was lightly edited in order to specify pronouns in brackets for clarity. -AO
I’m here today to share a couple of situations that have occurred in Idaho County and I want you to understand these are just my decisions I make upon these situations that occur.
As elected sheriff, I enforce local and state law. I don’t enforce federal law. I’m not required to. I actually couldn’t if I wanted to. My primary focus as a sheriff is to enforce any violation of the citizens of my county where their constitutional rights are violated. That’s number one.
And then, when federal agencies start making rules and regulations and they become heavy-handed, and – I’ll say this in a different way when I talk about the fines. If you had a traffic violation and we charged you $10,000, that would be really heavy-handed. When you put garbage in the wrong dumpster, and a federal officer writes you a ticket, it’s $500 unless you plead not guilty. And then it can be one year in federal prison or $10,000, so which do you think you do?
Some of the rules just seem arbitrary and they in my opinion, the way I was brought up and tend to believe, is they’re just arbitrary. There’s some man making that rule. The way I was raised, we have elected officials. They elect me, we elect you [the legislators], you make the rules, we hire people that are answerable to the people. That’s the way it’s supposed to work. The federal agencies – in this case I’m talking about law enforcement, regulation enforcement – they don’t answer to anybody. Well, yes in fact they do. They answer to the person they work for. I’ve had more than one discussion, usually somewhat adversarial, that they don’t answer to the people. That’s not the way our government is supposed to work, in my opinion. That causes real stress on the folks that the federal agencies are working with.
If you’ve ever been stopped by a federal law enforcement officer, you will get a quick overview of how it works. Because I would guess you don’t have any idea how it works right now. I didn’t either when I became sheriff, and I’ve been in law enforcement since I was 25 and I’m 68, add that up. That’s a long time. You just don’t know how it works, and once you’re caught in it, you lose. The folks that they hire are usually not local. They come into this area, wherever you are. In my county, I’m referring, there is no administrator, for example, EPA. I asked somebody out in the hall, ‘Have you ever seen an EPA person?’ Well, of course not, where are they? Or maybe there’s one here, I don’t know. But nobody knows, unless you happen to work with them.
They have, not investigators, but inspectors. So an inspector will come and look at your dredge and, what rule does he go by? I don’t know, nobody has a copy of those rules. He’ll take pictures, make his report and then he leaves. You think you’re good. You’re not, because you’re gonna get a letter in the mail that you owe X number of dollars if you don’t get that dredge out, or whatever they decide. Whatever that inspector and that person who is his boss, which is in this case Seattle.
I’m not sure that the people in Seattle understand the local – I guess you would say – the local process, the local people, their mentality. They don’t even understand the local government or the local environment. They’re not from Boise, although there are some in Boise, but they probably weren’t born and raised here. They’re probably born like the ones from Alaska. You will get an EPA violation in the mail if you so violate. You don’t deal with anybody individually.
As a sheriff, I stand as the gap between people that I represent and was elected to represent, and the person who is putting the hammer on you, or the individual who was not elected. He doesn’t really care what you have to say unless he just personally cares, because he doesn’t answer to you. He answers to his boss who answers to his boss who answers to his boss, none of which are elected officials. There’s nobody local to listen to. You may have one if you switch agencies. You go over to the BLM or something, and they will a local person there, but they also don’t answer to the people. They answer to their boss.
I won’t repeat what the gentleman said before about the DEQs – department of environmental quality. They’ve done studies, there have been numerous studies done. The EPA blames the U.S. Fisheries for the rules the EPA requires to fill the permit to dredge. I don’t know who makes these rules. They weren’t that way 10 years ago. Supposedly they used the Clean Water Act from 40 years ago. I don’t know who makes these rules. But I don’t think you [the legislators] do, and I don’t think our senators and congressmen – I don’t think they do either. I don’t think any elected official, because apparently the EPA has the permission to make rules so they hire somebody who’s all-knowing and he makes the rules to make sure that these people are all safe and that their rivers are clear and the birds are safe and the endangered species all live quietly, peacefully in the river. But that’s not true in my opinion. I don’t think that they use good analogies or good information. It’s kind of like having two psychiatrists in court. One says ‘The guy, he’s crazy, I’ve tested him,’ and the other hired by the opposing team says ‘He’s not crazy, he’s just fine.’ So science can go either direction. It just depends which side you’re on, whether you like it or not.
They claim a danger to the river by these dredges and I say – and I’m not a scientist, and I don’t know the dredging rules and environmental rules and all that – but I tell you, there’s one fire or one blowout, which we have I would say at least one, two, three, four every year – those will do more damage to the Salmon River, the Clearwater River or any other river than all the dredgers you can dream up. There’s no comparison. If you’ve been on a fire and you see what happens after a fire, if you’ve seen a blowout, if you’ve been up toward our direction, Idaho County, you see the river and all of a sudden you can’t see it at all. It’s brown. It’s absolutely filthy, from a blowout. All the dredges in the world can’t make that happen, and you know what? There’s still salmon in there, steelhead, and there’s still dredgers. It’s just some bad science they’re using to cut the dredgers out, I believe.
They claim it does damage to the fish, it does damage to the bullhead trout. Jet boats do damage, too. That’s next. Because when a jet boat screams up the river, it causes a wave that kicks up dirt on the sides. It’s actually not in the river. It’s just some crazy way they make rules and I don’t think it’s really the rule of science that does it. It’s an ideology and when you have a certain belief, you will make rules to match that belief.
One of ‘em I got this last week, one of the reasons they’re closing the Salmon River is there’s too much mercury in it. The mercury in it is natural, it comes out of the ground up the river. There’s not too much mercury in it, it’s the way it is. In fact the dredgers take mercury out if they find it. Naturally occurring, you can’t change that.
The feds and their lawmaking and their law-enforcing, they have very poor communication with the people of, in my case, Idaho county. In fact they don’t communicate with them because they’re not there. They’re behind locked doors. They’re in their trucks, driving by and they don’t communicate. They don’t say what’s going on. They just enforce these rules and they have a book of rules that you didn’t make and I don’t make. I don’t even know what they are. And includes not just the EPA.
When I ask for information from the EPA, they send me a whole boatload of stuff telling me why they have the authority to come into my county and inspect and fine the dredgers. And so I send them a copy of my book, the ones that you [the legislators] wrote and tell them what I can do if I catch them in my county.
I knew I was safe in saying that, I knew who was behind me, and I talked to the trooper in back just in case.
I’m gonna throw this out and then I’ll be done.
Their rules and regulations are not acceptable to – I would say the majority of the people, especially in Idaho County. You may have some bad ideas about Idaho County but it’s awesome: 8,503 square miles of absolute beauty. Tons and tons of water running everywhere.
But this is what I believe when I say they, in this case I’m talking about the EPA – they want us out of the river, because the reasons they use to get us out of the river are not valid. They want us out of the river so it doesn’t matter the excuse. They want us out of the river. And like I said before, I think the jet boats are next and if the fishermen don’t quit putting lead in there, the fishermen wil be next. They want to control the folks. They want to control their access to the river. If you don’t think that’s happening now, that’s because you’re not ever out on the river. They do control access.
This is a good example. It’s like how do you fill a bucket if all you have is a drip? Well, you leave it under the faucet a long enough time and that one drip at a time will fill the bucket and they do one drip at a time in law enforcement and in regulations. They change the regulation on a monthly, yearly, whatever, the regulation is not the same this year as it was last year. They change it. Who changed it? Somebody. It’s either a new guy that came in and said ‘Hey, we can change it and keep ‘em out.’ Their wording to us in a very quiet, simple, hushed way is stay out of the river. It’s also stay out of the forest. I don’t know if you’ve noticed that or not, but the regulations to stay out of the forest, they close roads. Why do they close roads? To keep you safe, keep the trees safe, keep the animals safe, keep the side of the hill safe, and I look up in the mountains and tell them ‘You’ve got to be kidding.’
That doesn’t mean we don’t need regulation. You have regulation at home, you have regulation for your kids and we have regulations for the people so they behave. But most people do behave. And I don’t like it and I know the folks of Idaho County don’t like being treated like ignorants, that they’re ignorant. That they’re not gonna behave. The sheriff’s department takes care of those that do misbehave.
There’s an elite few, and I shouldn’t say environmentalists because I don’t call them elite. But there’s a few and they have a lot of money and they want to control as a quote ‘the ignorant masses.’ And if you really look at it, there are a lot of people that don’t know what’s going on. And why don’t they? ‘Cause it’s tough to know what’s going on. I mean you guys write the Idaho Code and I guarantee you don’t know what’s in it. I think I heard that before. It’s tough. And the Forest Service, they have their own book and I don’t even know what’s in it. Every time I go to the forest I know I’m doing something wrong. And if you read the book, you’ll find out you are. Like, can you cut wood out of a slash pile? Yes you can, but can also get a ticket for it. So it just depends.
It’s very insulting and demeaning when the federal lawmakers, rulemakers, regulation-makers, make these rules and regulations and we have to abide by them and we don’t even know what for. Given some reason, most people try to believe it. They trust. I was raised to trust. Through school you’re raised to trust and believe what you’re taught. I guess the problem is there, I went to Cal Poly and they’re teaching something different over at Berkeley.
It’s kind of becoming not the system I was raised under. It’s not the governing system I think our constitutional republic allows us to have. You don’t want me making rules for you, because if you do, then I’m gonna make the rules from where I stand politically and every other way. And if you don’t believe in what I believe in, and I make rules against you, you want to have some say. Call the government. I have his number right here. Call the EPA, who you gonna talk to? You’re gonna talk to somebody who has no clue what you’re talking about unless it effects them directly. These situations in my opinion are escalating and they are intensifying. And it’s my job to represent the people and I hope that you will take what I’ve said and what the other gentlemen have said and utilize it in you thinking when you make your decisions regarding such things as water, forests and the citizens, ‘cause that’s who we represent.