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Councilman explains why NR students should care about government

October 28th, 2011 Posted in Opinion

Story and Photos by Heidi Hansen 

LOGAN—Ronald Reagan likely turned over in his grave Thursday afternoon as a Logan City Councilman addressed a room packed full of College of Natural Resource students on why they should care about politics.

“I have a notion to share; it’s uncommon, but true,” said Herm Olsen, chairman of the Logan City Council, who is up for reelection in November. “At the risk of flying in the face of Ronald Reagan, I’m going to tell you that government is our friend.”

Invited to speak as part of the “Why Should I Care? Campaign,” a series of lectures sponsored by the ASUSU Government Relations Council aimed at different colleges across campus throughout the year, Olsen’s remarks were directed towards the interplay between politics and natural resource issues facing the community.

Explaining that he was asked to “entice, encourage and nudge” students to become informed and get involved with their community, Olsen’s message was that, “Government can be a good friend if you know how to play the game of politics.”

Using Cache Valley as an example, Olsen said, “120 years ago, if you looked at the mountains and hills, you would have seen clouds of billowing dust that looked like forest fires” caused by overgrazing of sheep, which ate everything green and then moved north.

But in 1902, Olsen said, people fed up with the poor water and air quality that accompanied desert mountains got organized.

“They got together, by the old court house—you know, the one across from Burger King,” Olsen laughed, “and they asked: What do you want? A public reserve with pure water and beautiful canyons? Or a private reserve with impure water and mountain desert?”

The answer seeming clear, citizens petitioned the federal government to create the Cache Forest Reserve. The Teddy Roosevelt administration approved it.

“Without government, we would not have what we see today in the canyon. You would not attend an agricultural college,” said Olsen, a USU political science graduate. “It would be clean air and water at a price.”

Today, Cache Valley residents face a new air quality problem: the winter inversion, which creates about 15 to 17 red-air days each year, Olsen said, and makes it unhealthy for residents to be outside for extended periods during this time.

With the Valley population expected to double in the next 25 years, the problem will only increase if nothing is done.

“But it’s a problem we can solve,” Olsen said, “and students should be involved in the solution.

“You are an ideal source of information to guys [politicians] that might not know anything about natural resources,” Olsen said, encouraging students to communicate with local leaders. “Find out what problems they are dealing with to help figure out the problems you are dealing with.”

After graduating from law school at the University of Utah, Olsen worked for the U.S. House of Representatives Interior Appropriations Committee, where he says he saw leaders “read letters on the floor from little old ladies in Layton or Providence and say, ‘Let’s work on a solution for this.’”

Most lawmakers, he said, really do work hard for their constituents.

“Despite the headlines in the paper, the vast majority of people who work for you work their guts out,” Olsen said. “They want to do the right thing and they honestly rely on you to tell them what the right thing is.

“Locally, I suggest that you would be amazed at the impact of friendly, civil communication with a city councilman, mayor or even congressman,” Olsen said.

Discussing other problems the audience thought Logan City faces today, such as urbanization and traffic, Olsen said, “We are going to have to start living a different life and doing different things. Planning is huge.”

Students should get involved in the planning process to deal with these issues, because current students will be those dealing with these issues in the future. “I know it’s easier to watch Dancing with the Stars, but it won’t solve these problems,” Olsen said.

Kayla Hall, communication coordinator for the USU Institute of Government and Politics, attended the lecture to inform College of Natural Resource students on other ways they can get involved with politics.

“We are trying to branch out to students in all majors,” Hall said. “We’re trying to let them know that there are internship opportunities through our office that relate to natural resource policy.”

And Olsen says getting involved can make a real difference. “The government is a tool,” he said. “It can be frustrating and irritating, and yet, it’s all we’ve got.

“So get involved in the solutions,” Olsen said. “Use the government so that it can be a good friend. It’s easier than you think to affect your world.”


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  1. 3 Responses to “Councilman explains why NR students should care about government”

  2. By Herm Olsen on Oct 31, 2011

    Wow – I didn’t know this would be covered by the paper, or I’d probably have said something REALLY off the wall! H

  3. By patrick a shea on Nov 1, 2011

    Herm is my hero. Finally someone sensible speaks about reality of the 21st century. Government is a necessary part of our life, whether you are part of the 99% or 1%. Herm for Governor.

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