In an abrupt turnaround, the Idaho Land Board took away a lease for state grazing land won by an environmentalist, then gave it back to the rancher who has used it for 20 years.
At a Jan. 28 auction, Jon Marvel, founder of
Idaho Watersheds Project, outbid Challis ranchers Will and Vangie
Ingram for rights to lease the 640-acre tract for 10 years (HCN,
2/7/94). On Feb. 8, the land board voted 4-1 to nullify the auction
and restore the lease to the Ingrams.
who viewed Marvel's action as a direct threat to public lands
grazing in Idaho, hailed the decision. But Marvel, who planned to
fence off a creek on the tract to protect salmon habitat, was
disappointed. "I think the land board violated the state
Constitution today ... and the entrenched power of the livestock
industry prevailed," he said.
Idaho Gov. Cecil
Andrus cast the sole vote in favor of Marvel's plan. He told
Associated Press he stood alone because "I'm the only one who's not
on the ballot next year." Idaho Attorney General Larry Echohawk,
State Auditor J.D. Williams and State Schools Superintendent Jerry
Evans said they switched their votes after becoming convinced that
Marvel's plan would hurt management of the entire area, including
surrounding federal lands.
Williams said a
change in the position of the Bureau of Land Management swayed him.
After a phone conversation with the Ingrams, Challis Area Manager
Mark Johnson wrote them a letter the day before the vote, saying
the agency now agreed that Marvel's plan would hurt the Herd Creek
Allotment. Earlier, Johnson had told Marvel his plan posed no
On the day of the vote, the Ingrams
showed the board how a fence would cut off their 625 head of cattle
from water after they have climbed over a high pass and gone
without water for five miles.
"Those cattle are
going to come off the hill dry, and when they come down to the
water and that fence, they're either going to break it down or
trail up and down the fence and harm state land," said long-time
sheepman and Secretary of State Pete Cenarrusa, who sits on the
Marvel argued that the Ingrams could
easily trail the livestock down a dirt road next to the creek and
then water the animals at that point. He said he hasn't decided
whether to challenge the Land Board's decision in
Steve Stuebner and Dan
Egan contributed to this report.