BOISE, Idaho (AP) — ... when mental illness leads to tragedy.
Cost is just one of the enormous barriers to effectively addressing the challenges of protecting the public from those whose illness leads them to commit unspeakable acts. Those challenges deserve our earnest discussion. But we also must act where and how we can to reduce the risk.
More than a quarter of the inmates in our State prison system have some level of mental illness. Many can be housed safely within appropriate settings in our existing facilities. But others need higher levels of care, more treatment and more intensive intervention for their own safety and that of others. That's why I support the Department of Correction's request for permission to issue $70 million in bonds for a 579-bed secure mental health facility at the prison complex south of Boise.
Correction Director Reinke has discussed this proposal with some of you. Now he stands ready to make his case for reauthorizing the previous request you approved - which would have built a smaller facility at the same cost.
No one likes spending money on prisons or inmates. But public safety is increasingly compromised by our inability to provide secure housing and appropriate treatment for mentally ill offenders. So I appreciate your careful and considered attention to helping us avoid more costly measures being imposed by federal courts.
We're all painfully aware of the damage that federal court rulings can do to our traditional industries and our Idaho lifestyle. We need look no further than the Endangered Species Act to see the essential conflict between federal and state priorities - especially when it comes to our natural resources.
Even putting aside wolves and grizzly bears, there's no doubt that the threat of federal edicts on sagegrouse, slickspot peppergrass, woodland caribou and other species have a profound impact not only on public policy here in Idaho but also on how our farmers, ranchers and others can pursue their livelihoods.
We are working proactively to avoid worst-case scenarios and to assert our rights as a state. However, this past year we reaped the whirlwind sown by federal neglect and mismanagement of our public lands.
Wildfire suppression costs alone approached a quarter-billion dollars - not counting huge impacts on the environment, public health, property, and the unrealized benefits of healthy, actively managed forests and rangeland.
Then there was Anne Veseth, a 20-year-old Lewis-Clark State College student from Moscow. Ann was killed in August while working as a seasonal firefighter for the U.S. Forest Service in Clearwater County.
We owe her and thousands like her a fighting chance while protecting our forests and rangelands. That's why my budget includes a $400,000 request to help create four more volunteer fire protection associations like the one formed by Mountain Home-area ranchers last summer.
Nonprofit groups like theirs can assist the BLM, Idaho Department of Lands and rural fire districts in fighting and maybe even preventing catastrophic wildfires on the nearly two-thirds of Idaho land "managed" by the federal government.
Another example of our Idaho preference for actively managing our precious natural resources is the newly revised State Water Plan being submitted for your approval this session. It's the first update since 1996, and it reflects use of the latest technology in better evaluating our needs and the status of our water supplies.
Just as importantly, for the first time the plan is about more than our goals - it also includes strategies and milestones for executing our management policies and evaluating their effectiveness. It goes to the very heart of the data-driven policy making I've been promoting throughout my administration.
My thanks to Water Resources Director Gary Spackman and members of the Water Resource Board, the water-user community and the public at large for participating in this important work. It will help guide how we use, protect and replenish our water supplies for a more sustainable future.
Of course, our best chance for sustaining our Idaho way of life is an engaged public.