In a break with precedent around the West, conservationists in Oregon will now be allowed to bid against ranchers for leases on state-owned land (HCN, 7/25/94). By a 2-1 vote, the Oregon Land Board gave the okay July 29 to competitive bidding and specified that state land can be leased for "conservation use." Some parcels will be exempt and there will be a shakeout period with further policy adjustments possible. Several conservation groups that had forced the issue said they will make formal application to bid on grazing leases in the Owyhee Canyon area and elsewhere. "The hard part now is making sure we have the financial wherewithal to secure the lease" and manage the land properly, said Bill Marlett, director of the Oregon Natural Desert Association. The new rules call for management plans to be prepared for parcels that include critical habitat or threatened and endangered species. The board also raised grazing fees for the first time in 15 years, from $2.50 to $3.01 per month for each cow-calf pair on small parcels, and to $4.56 on large parcels. The rule changes seek to maximize revenues which help fund Oregon's school system.