Truth Squad: Are state symbols wasting money, time?

Truth Squad: Are state symbols wasting money, time?
HAGERMAN -- I was hard at work recently near Hagerman, in search of official Idaho dirt.

It's called Three Bear, regarded as Idaho's state soil.

Not surprisingly, many people are a bit astounded that the state even has a official dirt.

"I don't know what it's called," said Kirt Martin of Hagerman. "Three Bear, you
say? Dirt? OK."

I didn't find any Three Bear, but state soil scientist David Hoover with the Natural Resources Conservation Service in Boise showed me a sample.

"It's the official soil of Idaho," Hoover said. "Soils that are high in volcanic ash are certainly unique. It's also a very productive soil for forest land in Northern Idaho."

(Of course, purists say dirt is not really soil. But the dictionary defines dirt as loose or packed soil or sand.)

In my search for Three Bear, I came across another state symbol -- Idaho's official fossil, the Hagerman horse, which lived in idaho three-and-a-half million years ago.

But the horse skeleton on display in Hagerman is a replica. However, many of the fossils found in the Hagerman area have ended up in the Smithsonian in Washington, DC.

Idaho has a state fish, the cutthroat trout.

We have an official state bird, the bluebird, and an official state raptor, the Peregrine falcon.

There's an official Idaho gem, of course -- the star garnet.

And State Representative Rich Jarvis is co-sponsoring a bill to designate an official state amphibian, the giant Idaho salamander at the request of Calvary Christian school kids in Boise.

"It's native to Idaho," said 10-year-old Ellie Bates, a Calvary fourth grader. "And it a cool amphibian."

"The important thing is teaching fourth and fifth graders that government listens," said Jarvis, a Meridian Republican. "Showing the children that we're responsive."

And Jarvis says it's an inexpensive civics lesson.

Legislative researchers say the official symbol bills are usually just a page, and printing a page costs $1.83. And legislative researchers also say designating state symbols doesn't take much of the legislature's time.

There's usually just one symbol bill, among the 1,200 bills written each year. (Usually only 400 of this bills are actually passed.)

A final note on the state soil, Three Bear. It hasn't been officially designated by the state legislature yet because no lawmaker will step forward to sponsor it. Seems some state symbols are treated, well, like dirt.