Longtime congressional aide to direct Idaho Coalition of Land Trusts

Laurel Sayer, who retired in April after 20 years as a congressional aide to Republicans Mike Crapo and Mike Simpson, has been named the first executive director of the Idaho Coalition of Land Trusts.

Founded in 2008, the coalition includes 17 dues-paying member groups working to preserve open space, traditional agriculture and wildlife across Idaho. About 400,000 acres in Idaho have been protected from development by land trusts.

“We are just so excited to have her on to help raise the voice of voluntary conservation,” said the coalition’s board chairwoman, Joselin Matkins, who also is land protection director for the Teton Regional Land Trust.

Sayer said her goal is to expand the reach of the groups, which rely on tax incentives for landowners to establish conservation easements prohibiting development of open space. Sayer said surrounding states, including Oregon, Washington and Montana, have statewide coalitions.

Many of the trusts are largely run by volunteers, though some have paid staff. Last year, The Nature Conservancy hired longtime Idaho Department of Environmental Quality Director Toni Hardesty to run its Idaho office.

“These groups need somebody that can pay attention to what’s going on at the national, state and local level and that can help coordinate and build the organization,” Sayer said Thursday.

Sayer said helping keep farms in family hands by employing conservation easements was among her most fulfilling work as a congressional aide. In some cases, government entities take over management of the easements, such as at Harriman State Park.

Other coalition members include the city of Boise, which manages conservation easements in the Boise Front; the Lemhi Regional Land Trust, founded by farmers and ranchers; and the Palouse Land Trust, founded by University of Idaho faculty. (The full list appears below).

Sayer, 59, worked for six years for then-Rep. Mike Crapo, now Idaho’s senior U.S. senator. For the following 14 years, she worked for Rep. Mike Simpson as natural resources adviser. Sayer was a key player in Simpson’s decade-long effort to pass a wilderness bill for 330,000 acres in the Boulder-White Clouds, now stalled in Congress by resistance from Sen. Jim Risch, R-Idaho, and others. She also worked with land trusts on preserving open space in the Upper Snake River below Palisades Dam. Both of her congressional jobs were based in Idaho Falls.

Sayer started Tuesday and will work 25 hours a week. She will be based in Boise, where her husband, Jeff Sayer, directs the Idaho Department of Commerce for Gov. Butch Otter. Sayer said part of the reason she retired from Simpson’s office was the difficulty of commuting between Boise and Idaho Falls.


Laurel Sayer


A news release from the coalition about Sayer’s hiring follows:

Laurel Sayer – Idaho Coalition of Land Trusts’ First Executive Director
Boise, ID – The board of Idaho Coalition of Land Trusts is proud to announce the
recent hiring of Laurel Sayer as its first Executive Director. This added capacity
comes at an important time for the Coalition as it seeks to build and strengthen
public awareness of and support for voluntary private land conservation
throughout the state.  The Coalition works closely with its members, private
landowners, local officials, legislators, agencies, media and others.

The mission of Idaho Coalition of Land Trusts is to support and advance
professional excellence in voluntary land conservation for people and nature.  The
Coalition’s mission statement speaks to Idaho’s dual need: increased capacity
within the land trust community and increased land conservation to benefit future
generations and the environment.

Sayer comes to the Coalition after 14 years as the Natural Resources policy adviser
for U.S.  Representative Mike Simpson. Throughout her career, Laurel has served as
a trusted advisor and resource to many within Idaho’s land trust community. She
has worked hard to develop partnerships and advocate for the interests of
Idahoans.  Prior to working for Representative Simpson, Laurel served on U.S.
Senator Mike Crapo’s staff for six years while he was in the U.S. House of

She has been very involved throughout eastern Idaho and developed valuable
relationships with local, state, regional, and Federal Government agencies and
numerous organizations and individuals. Laurel has served in leadership roles of
the Greater Idaho Falls Chamber of Commerce, the Idaho Commission on the Arts,
the Idaho Falls Arts Council, and served on the boards of the Yellowstone Business
Partnership, the Idaho Community Foundation, and the Education Foundation.  The
years that she spent doing volunteer efforts in the community paid off for Idahoans
as well as her years as one of the most effective congressional staffers in the State.
“We are thrilled to have Laurel join our team,” Lemhi Regional Land Trust Executive
Director Kristin Troy said, “We’ve partnered with her on numerous conservation
efforts over the years and look forward to the experience and understanding she
brings to the position.”

Raised in a family that lived and loved the rural lifestyle has provided Sayer with a
knowledge and appreciation of the value of family farms and ranches to Idaho’s
communities.  Sayer will be based in Boise, and will be visiting with staff from the
17 land conservation organizations throughout the state.

Sayer loves to be outside enjoying everything Idaho has to offer, from working in
her garden to a quiet afternoon fishing or hiking. Camping in the Boulder White
Clouds, floating a river, or sharing a mountain bike ride with her husband Jeff are
some of her favorite things to do.

“In both my volunteer and congressional work, I have had the opportunity to meet
and work with farmers and ranchers, private landowners, businesses,
recreationists, wildlife enthusiasts, outdoor advocacy groups, conservation groups,
many of Idaho’s land trust organizations, and state and federal land agencies.  All
of these individuals and organizations have one thing in common, their love of
Idaho’s way of life,” said Sayer.  She added “I am excited to continue building on
that commonality by growing and strengthening the Idaho Coalition of Land Trusts’
visibility and outreach statewide to support and advance professional excellence in
voluntary land conservation for people and nature.”

Idaho Coalition of Land Trust Members

Blaine County Land, Water & Wildlife Program
The Conservation Fund
The City of Boise
Ducks Unlimited
Inland Northwest Land Trust
Kaniksu Land Trust
Lemhi Regional Land Trust
The Nature Conservancy
Palouse Land Trust
Payette Land Trust
Sagebrush Steppe Land Trust
Southern Idaho Land Trust
Teton Regional Land Trust
The Trust for Public Land
The Vital Ground Foundation
The Wilderness land Trust
Wood River Land Trust




Dan Popkey came to Idaho in 1984 to work as a police reporter. Since 1987, he has covered politics and has reported on 25 sessions of the Legislature. Dan has a bachelor's in political science from Santa Clara University and a master's in journalism from Columbia University. He was a Congressional Fellow of the American Political Science Association and a Journalism Fellow at the University of Michigan. A former page in the U.S. House of Representatives, he graduated Capitol Page High School in 1976. In 2007, he led the Statesman’s coverage of the Sen. Larry Craig sex scandal, which was one of three Pulitzer Prize finalists in breaking news. In 2003, he won the Ted M. Natt First Amendment award from the Pacific Northwest Newspaper Association for coverage of University Place, the University of Idaho’s troubled real estate development in Boise. Dan helped start the community reading project "Big Read." He has two children in college and lives on the Boise Bench with an old gray cat.

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