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Concern for history, health fuels protests

A proposed feedlot near the Minidoka national monument meets all state and federal standards, an attorney says.

By Anna Webb, Idaho Statesman
Edition Date: 09/28/07

Karen Yoshitomi and Janeil Stewart both brought family photographs to the Jerome County Courthouse Tuesday.

They were there to testify against a proposal by Big Sky Farms of Eden to build a 13,000-cow feedlot a mile from the Minidoka Internment National Monument.

Yoshitomi is the regional director of the Japanese American Citizens League. The photograph she brought, of her mother and other relatives, is one of her family's few existing mementos that predate 1942. That year, her family lost most of their belongings when Executive Order 9066 sent them and 120,000 other Japanese Americans to 10 camps, including Minidoka, following Japan's surprise attack on Pearl Harbor.

Stewart, who lives near the proposed feedlot, brought a photograph of her seven children.

"Home is the safe haven for my family," she said. She's fearful of the environmental hazards posed by a large-scale animal feeding operation.

The women represented the two concerns voiced by nearly all the people who spoke before the Jerome County commissioners: respect for the historical significance of the area and the environment.

Augustus Tanaka, a retired surgeon in his 80s, was interned at Minidoka as a young man with his family. He traveled to Jerome from Ontario to testify. His interest in protecting Minidoka as a historic site "is certainly not as a means to perpetuate a sense of guilt in the country for what happened ... but to memorialize Minidoka as a stark reminder that civil liberties and rights can become a very fragile thing in times of major national stress."

After hearing testimony Tuesday and Wednesday, the commissioners will make a decision about whether to approve the feedlot. They have not set a deadline for that decision.

Opponents say the feedlot operation, which Eden businessman Don McFarland first proposed to the commissioners earlier this year, would create odor, dust, noise, light and airborne germs in the area.

John Lothspeich, attorney for McFarland and Big Sky Farms, said the 160-acre feedlot, part of a 1,204-acre complex, meets all state and federal standards, including the number of animals allowed per acre and distances from roads and homes.

Jack McCall, a Twin Falls resident who farms near Jerome, was the only person who spoke in favor of the proposal Tuesday afternoon. "It complies with rules and regulations. This country is run by a system of laws, not people who arbitrarily get to change the rules," said McCall.Neil King, superintendent of the Minidoka monument with the National Park Service, said the strong odor from 13,000 cows would endanger the commerce the Minidoka site might bring to the area. Park Service studies say that the site, improved with the help of federal grants President Bush approved last year, could bring 80,000 visitors and $5 million to the area each year.