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NEWSWEEK’S `OUTBACK’ ARTICLE RILES ANDRUS

SHARE NEWSWEEK’S `OUTBACK’ ARTICLE RILES ANDRUS

Idaho Gov. Cecil Andrus is blasting the editors of Newsweek magazine for their recent story on the future of the American West, claiming the article has done a "grave disservice" to states that have battled back from economic travail to face the 1990s with renewed strength.

"You are wrong on the facts and wrong in your East Coast under-assessment of what still makes the West a frontier for those with good ideas who value a good chance to enjoy the good life," Andrus said in a letter to the magazine's editor.In its Oct. 9 edition, Newsweek published the article "America's Outback," which said the six Western states celebrating their centennials this year and next - North and South Dakota, Wyoming, Montana, Washington and Idaho - faced a bleak future of economic and social decay. It maintained the region will become only "vast silent spaces where wild game stare at the passing horseman."

Andrus, who served as the nation's Interior Secretary under former President Jimmy Carter, said the statement that 1989 was far bleaker than 1889 for Idaho was "flat wrong." He cited the state's economic resurgence that in the past three years has generated 30,000 new jobs, cut the unemployment rate from over 8 percent to under 5 percent and bolstered state personal income by $1.5 billion.

"We enjoy a quality of life that every other section of the country would dearly love to have," the governor wrote. "The story you might have written, in my opinion, the story you missed, is a story of gritty determination and new opportunity in the West.

"Unfortunately, those attributes apparently didn't fit Newsweek's story line of how terrible things are out here in the `outback,' " Andrus said. "Truth to tell, the vast majority of Westerners wouldn't swap our future and our quality of life for what the rest of the country puts up with for anything.

"That's the way it was in 1889, and that's the way it is today."