Cecil Andrus on horseback
Cecil Andrus on horseback (Photo courtesy of the Idaho Democratic Party)

For­mer Demo­c­ra­t­ic Ida­ho Gov­er­nor and Unit­ed States Inte­ri­or Sec­re­tary Cecil Andrus, a pil­lar in the con­ser­va­tion move­ment, has died of com­pli­ca­tions of lung can­cer, his daugh­ter Tra­cy con­firmed this morn­ing. He was eighty-five.

Andrus lived a ful­fill­ing life and leaves behind a lega­cy worth appre­ci­at­ing. Raised in Ore­gon, he lat­er moved to Ida­ho and became a fix­ture of the state’s politics.

Cecil Andrus on horseback
Cecil Andrus on horse­back (Pho­to cour­tesy of the Ida­ho Demo­c­ra­t­ic Party)

“Good­bye, Cecil Andrus, deep­est thanks for enor­mous con­tri­bu­tions to pro­tect­ing the West as Ida­ho gov­er­nor and Inte­ri­or Sec­re­tary,” said the Seat­tle Post-Intel­li­gencer’s Joel Con­nel­ly, who was a close friend of Andrus’ and is men­tioned in the obit­u­ary pub­lished by The New York Times a few hours ago.

“I’ve appre­ci­at­ed your work, not just in writ­ing a book with you, but when raft­ing Coop­er Riv­er in Wrangell-St. Elias Nation­al Park, or pound­ing through the Snake River’s Wild Sheep Rapids in Hells Canyon Nation­al Recre­ation Area, or stand­ing at edge of Snake Riv­er Canyon, in Birds of Prey sanc­tu­ary, watch­ing gold­en eagles soar and prairie fal­cons dive,” Con­nel­ly added.

“With the paint­ing of Alice Lake in the Saw­tooths above your desk, you drew me to vis­it a spot which in the ear­ly AM. [Alice Lake] is one of the most beau­ti­ful places on earth. In com­par­i­son to your stature, today’s Ida­ho polit­i­cal lead­ers could hide in a field of stub­ble,” he con­clud­ed, in a swipe at the Gem State’s Repub­li­can trifecta.

Alice Lake in Idaho
Alice Lake in the Saw­tooth Wilder­ness in Ida­ho (Pho­to: Wikipedi­an and ecol­o­gist Fredlyfish4)

Work­ing with Jim­my Carter, Andrus led efforts to pro­tect Alaska’s pub­lic lands from exploita­tion and thought­less devel­op­ment… a move that enraged many Repub­li­cans, but that saved many pris­tine areas of the Last Fron­tier from being pol­lut­ed and scarred in a greedy rush to extract resources.

Over one hun­dred mil­lion acres were set aside, includ­ing the famed Arc­tic Refuge.

“Ros­alynn and I join thou­sands across our nation in mourn­ing the pass­ing of Cecil Andrus, a friend from the time we served togeth­er as gov­er­nors,” Pres­i­dent Carter said in a state­ment cel­e­brat­ing the life of his good friend.

“Cece was the only per­son I con­sid­ered for the cab­i­net post of sec­re­tary of the inte­ri­or, and togeth­er we made con­ser­va­tion his­to­ry with the suc­cess­ful pas­sage of the Alas­ka lands leg­is­la­tion, which dou­bled the size of the Nation­al Parks, estab­lished large addi­tions to the Nation­al Wildlife Refuge Sys­tem, des­ig­nat­ed new wild and scenic rivers and pro­tect­ed for future gen­er­a­tions entire ecosys­tems such as the Gates of the Arc­tic,” Carter added.

“A spe­cial mem­o­ry Ros­alynn and I cher­ish is the float trip with Car­ol and Cece down the Mid­dle Fork of the Salmon, com­pet­ing in catch­ing the most trout. Cece loved the out­doors and was a gen­uine con­ser­va­tion­ist. Amer­i­cans are bet­ter off because of his ser­vice, and I am bet­ter because of his friendship.”

Andrus served two stints as Gov­er­nor of Ida­ho: one before he accept­ed Jim­my Carter’s request to become Sec­re­tary of the Inte­ri­or, and a sec­ond after return­ing to the Gem State from the Dis­trict of Columbia.

As relat­ed by the New York Times, he dis­missed the notion of stay­ing in the Dis­trict of Colum­bia in inter­views, scoff­ing, “The only rea­son so many peo­ple live on the East Coast is that they don’t know any better.”

(Amen, Sec­re­tary Andrus!)

As Gov­er­nor, Andrus did not hes­i­tate to stand up for his pro­gres­sive val­ues. He opposed efforts to unsafe­ly trans­port and dump nuclear waste in his state. He said no when Ida­ho’s Leg­is­la­ture pre­sent­ed him with a bill that would have severe­ly cur­tailed repro­duc­tive rights for women. Ear­li­er in his career, in 1970, he ran on stop­ping a molyb­de­num mine in the White Cloud Moun­tains… and won.

By the time he left office in 1994, Andrus had served as Gov­er­nor of Ida­ho for four­teen years. He opt­ed not to seek a fifth term (which he’d have won), pre­fer­ring instead to retire. In 1998, he pub­lished his mem­oir, coau­thored with Joel Con­nel­ly. He con­tin­ued to sup­port the Ida­ho Demo­c­ra­t­ic Par­ty and proud­ly cam­paigned for its can­di­dates. When Barack Oba­ma came to Boise to head­line one of the biggest ral­lies the state had ever seen, Andrus intro­duced him.

Author Chris Carl­son con­sid­ers Andrus Ida­ho’s Great­est Gov­er­nor“Andrus is the most beloved polit­i­cal fig­ure the state has ever pro­duced,” Carl­son wrote in 2010, rem­i­nisc­ing about Andrus’ incred­i­ble abil­i­ty to con­nect with people.

That cer­tain­ly explains why even arch­con­ser­v­a­tive Repub­li­cans like Raul Labrador are pay­ing trib­ute to Andrus today in the warmest of terms.

The Ida­ho States­man has an exten­sive roundup of trib­utes from cur­rent elect­ed offi­cials — most of whom are Republicans.

The Ida­ho Demo­c­ra­t­ic Par­ty was appro­pri­ate­ly effu­sive in its state­ment.

“A remark­able and influ­en­tial leader, Gov­er­nor Cecil D. Andrus was a true pub­lic ser­vant. He was an authen­tic and dig­ni­fied states­man and even when serv­ing in the high­est offices of our nation, he remained an Ida­ho out­doors­man, a neigh­bor, and a friend. A giant of a man, Gov­er­nor Andrus was Idaho’s longest serv­ing gov­er­nor and leaves behind a lega­cy that Ida­hoans will for­ev­er cher­ish. His prac­ti­cal, sin­cere, and kind-heart­ed lead­er­ship will be tru­ly missed,” the par­ty said.

“Funer­al arrange­ments, which will be pri­vate, are planned for Wednes­day, August 30 in Boise,” says the Andrus Cen­ter. “A pub­lic lying in state cer­e­mo­ny will fol­low at noon on Wednes­day in the Ida­ho Capi­tol rotun­da and con­tin­ue until noon on August 31. A pub­lic memo­r­i­al ser­vice is planned for 2:00 pm Thurs­day, August 31 in the Jor­dan Ball­room of the Boise State Uni­ver­si­ty Stu­dent Union.”

“In lieu of flow­ers the Andrus fam­i­ly sug­gests memo­r­i­al gifts to the Andrus Cen­ter for Pub­lic Pol­i­cy at Boise State Uni­ver­si­ty, which is ded­i­cat­ed to fur­ther­ing his life’s work and lega­cy. The fam­i­ly warm­ly thanks each and every indi­vid­ual who has sent cards, let­ters and flow­ers and wish­es it were pos­si­ble to per­son­al­ly acknowl­edge each expres­sion of con­cern and car­ing. Please know that your well wish­es have meant so much to the entire fam­i­ly as they attempt to deal with the loss of our hus­band, father, grand­fa­ther, and great grandfather.”

Rest in peace, Cecil Andrus. We at NPI will do our part to uphold your lega­cy and build on your good works in every state in the Pacif­ic Northwest.

About the author

Andrew Villeneuve is the founder and executive director of the Northwest Progressive Institute, as well as the founder of NPI's sibling, the Northwest Progressive Foundation. He has worked to advance progressive causes for over two decades as a strategist, speaker, author, and organizer. Andrew is also a cybersecurity expert, a veteran facilitator, a delegate to the Washington State Democratic Central Committee, and a member of the Climate Reality Leadership Corps.

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