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.
“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.
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.
“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.