Kootenai Environmental Alliance is the oldest non-profit conservation group in Idaho and one of the oldest in the Northwest. The organization was founded in 1972 by former Idaho State Senators Art Manley and Mary Lou Reed, well-known environmental attorney Scott Reed, and representatives from several local and regional sporting organizations. KEA was created in response to the extensive environmental damage in the Idaho Panhandle at the time, caused by timber and mining interests, land developers, and policies of land managers of the federal government.
The organization has always held that an informed public is essential to safeguarding our environment. To that end, KEA held public meetings almost every week for 30 years to provide the public an opportunity to hear experts, political candidates and local officials address local, regional and national environmental issues. Continuing the tradition in more recent years, we’ve held “Lunch and Learn” meetings at the Ironhorse Restaurant the 1st and 3rd Thursdays of each month at noon, running September through June.
KEA and other conservation groups were plaintiffs in a suit that stopped the illegal and destructive Douglas-fir Beetle timber sale in 2001, the largest-ever timber sale in this region.
KEA facilitated the formation of a number of neighborhood groups and mentored them on land use issues. Over the years, KEA has fought and defeated or mitigated dozens of development proposals and industrial facilities that threatened the environment or impacted community values.
KEA led the effort to ensure that a re-write of Kootenai County’s comprehensive plan in a manner that respects rural communities and protects the natural and scenic resources in the region. KEA is currently engaged in a long-delayed process to update the County’s development and zoning codes.
KEA led a coalition of organizations to successfully advocate for a protective designation of the Rathdrum Prairie-Spokane Valley Aquifer as a sole source for drinking water. KEA also promoted regulations regarding critical material storage and the handling of chemicals on property above the Aquifer.
KEA’s work led to the designation of the Rathdrum Prairie aquifer as a Ground Water Management Area by the Idaho Department of Water Resources. KEA was also a member of a steering committee that crafted legislation leading to the creation of the Rathdrum Prairie Aquifer Protection District in 2006.
KEA protested excessive requests for water rights, negotiated settlements with many of the applicants resulting in a significant reduction in their water requests and caps on yearly water consumption. KEA was a member of a coalition of environmental and union groups that prevailed in the denial of the request to withdraw 17 million gallons of water per day from aquifer by two power generating corporations.
KEA has been a partner with the City of Coeur d’Alene and City of Post Falls on water conservation efforts. KEA’s work has contributed to the installation of low water use landscaping, the installation of water-saving irrigation devices in parks, and conservation programs for water customers. KEA negotiated with the City of Post Falls to establish the only mandatory water conservation measure in the region.
KEA has advocated for Clean Water Act TMDL cleanup plans, and has served as conservation representative to advisory groups, for waterways throughout the region, including the Spokane River, tributaries to Coeur d’Alene Lake, and the Coeur d’Alene River. On multiple occasions, KEA has taken legal action against polluters in violation of their Clean Water Act permits.
KEA was instrumental in the protection of Tubbs Hill from unrestricted development, the protection of public access at Sanders Beach, and the protection of pilings in Cougar Bay for wildlife habitat and quiet recreation. In addition, in a lawsuit filed against the Panhandle Yacht Club, KEA established that the public trust doctrine applies to state-owned surface waters and submerged lands within the state.
KEA was a partner in the first community garden in the City of Coeur d’Alene, and KEA founded the region’s first charitable CSA. KEA’s Community Roots local food share program has delivered more than 22 thousand pounds of local fresh food to soup kitchens, shelters, and food assistance facilities.