Our Past Work

Environmental advocacy is generational work. The events of the past dictate the circumstance of the present day, and the efforts of today, determine our future.

The Kootenai Environmental Alliance (KEA), founded in 1972 and incorporated as a nonprofit in 1974, stands as Idaho's oldest nonprofit conservation organization. It emerged in response to significant environmental degradation in North Idaho’s water resources and forests. The region, characterized by the Coeur d'Alene Basin with its prominent mining activities and the expansive Idaho Panhandle National Forests, faced pressing ecological challenges. Initially a volunteer organization, KEA appointed its first executive director in 2001.

KEA’s guiding principle is the belief that an informed public is crucial for environmental protection. This belief was reflected in their consistent public engagement, exemplified by weekly public meetings held for three decades, followed by biweekly meetings. These gatherings provided platforms for experts and political candidates to discuss environmental issues on various scales.

Silver Valley, early 20th century

Key Accomplishments by Decades

1970s

  • KEA played a pivotal role in conserving Tubbs Hill, a 134-acre natural area in downtown Coeur d'Alene, from urban development.

  • Collaborated with the League of Women Voters, the Sierra Club, and the Spokane Audubon Society to have the Spokane/Rathdrum Prairie Aquifer designated as a sole-source aquifer by the EPA.

  • Successfully filed a lawsuit to stop the construction of the Panhandle Yacht Club marina on Lake Coeur d’Alene, leading to the establishment of the Public Trust Doctrine in Idaho.

1980s

  • Prevented the disposal of toxic residues from the Rathdrum Prairie aluminum re-smelting plant in local landfills or as road fill.

  • Won a lawsuit against the State Land Board, resulting in a settlement that ensured the Hagadone Corporation paid an equitable lease fee for using Lake Coeur d’Alene's surface and maintained public access to Sanders Beach.

1990s

  • Collaborated with The Lands Council and The Ecology Center to challenge illegal timber sales, significantly reducing timber sold in the Idaho Panhandle National Forests.

  • Negotiated a settlement to halt the construction of an I-90 interchange near Blue Creek Bay, protecting fish habitats.

  • Advocated against Avista Utilities’ plan to store diesel fuel above the Aquifer, preventing potential environmental hazards.

  • Contributed to the development of regulations for material storage and chemical handling above the Aquifer, adopted by the Panhandle Health District.

  • Secured public access to Coeur d’Alene Lake’s shoreline at Sanders Beach.

2000s

  • Participated in a lawsuit that stopped the largest proposed timber sale in the region.

  • Initiated a recycling project that reduced landfill waste by 50%.

  • Successfully opposed water withdrawal requests by power generating corporations, protecting the Aquifer.

  • Worked with Post Falls city to establish mandatory water conservation measures.

  • Contributed to the Bi-State Aquifer Study, leading to the Aquifer’s designation as a Ground Water Management Area.

  • Promoted the land application of treated wastewater in Post Falls.

  • Opposed excessive water rights requests, leading to negotiated settlements reducing water volumes.

  • Collaborated to oppose a refueling depot above the Aquifer, leading to a lawsuit that resulted in its major reconstruction due to contamination leaks.

  • Promoted water conservation measures in Coeur d'Alene, contributing to low water use landscaping and advanced irrigation in city parks.

  • Launched the “Got Growth?” series to educate the public on land use issues and facilitated the formation of neighborhood groups for environmental advocacy.

  • Played a key role in establishing the Rathdrum Aquifer Protection District.

  • Conducted workshops that influenced the county’s comprehensive land use plan.

  • Started the Community Roots Local Food Share program to distribute excess produce to local food assistance facilities.

2010s

  • Launched Kootenai County’s first charitable Community Supported Agriculture program under Community Roots.

  • Played a significant role in updating and protecting the Kootenai County Comprehensive Plan.

  • Served on the committee rewriting the Kootenai County Unified Land Use Code.

  • Partnered with Gonzaga Law School’s Environmental Law Clinic to address deficiencies in the Fernan Lake Road reconstruction project.

  • Provided substantial input into the Spokane River Cleanup and the EPA’s cleanup plan for the Upper Coeur d’Alene Basin.

  • Installed Idaho’s first floating treatment wetland in Hayden Lake.

  • Successfully preserved Cougar Bay from increased mooring use.

  • Continued the Community Roots Local Food Share program, distributing thousands of pounds of produce to local food assistance facilities.

Like many non-profits, KEA was hit hard by the Covid pandemic in early 2020s. The regular events and programming that had helped KEA to grow and expand their efforts and impact were halted almost overnight. This rippled through the organization as a whole, and resulted in a restructuring effort initiated in early 2024.

Throughout its history, the Kootenai Environmental Alliance has remained steadfast in its mission to protect North Idaho’s natural resources. Its extensive accomplishments reflect a commitment to environmental advocacy, community engagement, and sustainable practices, significantly contributing to the preservation of the region's ecological integrity. We are committed to continuing this legacy.

Opportunities to Get Involved

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