Guest column submitted by U.S. Senator Mike Crapo
With diverse and picturesque natural features across its 53 million acres, Idaho is undeniably beautiful. The rolling wheat and legume fields and grasslands of the Palouse, the sparkling tree-lined Lake Coeur d'Alene and the fascinating Craters of the Moon Lava field that stretches more than 600 square miles are just a few examples of Idaho's distinctive landscape. We have forests, wildlife, mountains, rivers, lakes, hot springs and parks a plenty, providing great opportunities for exploration, recreation and inspiration. This Earth Day provides a good time to get outdoors and enjoy our plentiful resources.
Whether a person likes to hike, bike, hunt, fish, observe wildlife, camp, climb, swim, boat or more, Idaho does not have a shortage of places for such activities. I grew up camping, hunting and fishing, a heritage I shared with my sons and daughters over the years and continue to enjoy today. Idaho's many areas to participate in this tradition are part of the reason I love our state so much. Lake Pend Oreille is the largest of Idaho's more than 2,000 lakes. At more than 12,000 feet above sea level, Mount Borah, in Idaho's Lost River Range, is Idaho's highest point. Shoshone Falls has a deeper drop than Niagara Falls. Hells Canyon has the deepest river gorge on the North American Continent, deeper than the Grand Canyon. Idaho has more than 93,000 miles of streams and rivers, including the Salmon River, which is the nation's longest free-flowing river that heads and flows within a single state. Idaho also has a number of communities with unique and intriguing features, such as the Soda Springs Geyser.
Aside from being personally rewarding, enjoying the outdoors also supports our state's economy. The Outdoor Industry Foundation reported that active outdoor recreation in Idaho supports 37,000 jobs across Idaho, generates $154 million in annual state tax revenue and produces $2.2 billion annually in retail sales and services. Additionally, according to information from the Idaho Department of Fish and Game, over the past ten years, receipts from sales of Idaho fish and game licenses and permits increased by $21.7 million, a more than 40 percent increase.
To ensure that these assets remain for the benefit of future generations, we must respect them and manage them effectively. Conservation and progress do not need to be at odds. This standard is shared by the many Idaho farmers, ranchers and landowners who demonstrate great stewardship while also contributing to our economy. Idaho sportsmen and women also have a profound stake in and play a prominent role in promoting sustainability in fish and wildlife populations. Their important involvement assists in achieving sound wildlife and land management solutions and fostering value of our outdoors in our youth.
With our state's abundance, it is often easy to take the resources outside our doors for granted. We are virtually surrounded by nature's beauty and recreation opportunities. However, there are many places on this earth without this wealth of natural resources. This Earth Day provides an important reminder of the remarkable natural assets all around us and the opportunities we have every day to get outside and enjoy them while also sustaining them for our children and future generations.
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