Marvel ups the ante

Sporting a bright-green button that said: "I support welfare ranching," Hailey, Idaho, conservationist Jon Marvel bid $12,000 for the right to lease a 960-acre parcel of state land. After rancher Mike Ward bid $12,050 for the 10-year lease, Marvel folded and declared victory.

"We've approximately tripled the cost of the lease for the rancher," Marvel said. "Since he's willing to pay, it's indicative that the state is undervaluing the land it leases for grazing." A decade ago, Ward paid $5,000 for rights to lease the land.

Ward, who has held the rights to the land for the past two decades, said he will appeal the results of the auction to the state Land Board. "I wasn't going to go that high," but the timing of the auction - delayed for several months - left him no time to find other pastures, he said. "What was my other choice - sell my Herefords?"

*Dan Egan