"I can't help but notice that these ranchers have no trouble bidding against each other," Marvel said, "but in the auctions involving the Idaho Watersheds Project, they all raised the opening bid by $5 and then folded."
Marvel wants to improve the ecological condition of state grazing lands - particularly riparian areas - by outbidding ranchers for the leases and then resting the lands from livestock grazing. The Idaho Land Board rejected Marvel's bid against a Challis, Idaho, rancher last year. That decision is pending before the state Supreme Court (HCN, 7/25/94).
Marvel said he expects the newly elected Land Board, which consists of four Republicans and one Democrat, to reject his bids once again. A decision is expected sometime in February.
"Given the political makeup of the board, I think it's a pretty good guess," he said. "Apparently our money isn't as good as the ranchers'. Maybe we need to bid with dollars that have a picture of (new governor) Phil Batt on the front or something."
* Steve Stuebner
Steve Stuebner reports in Boise, Idaho.