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for people who care about the West

Uphill for these Idahoans

  Gene Bray and Irene Wright of Meridian, Idaho, stopped by the HCN office just before Election Day with an insiders' view of Idaho politics.

Bray is a board member of the Idaho Watersheds Project, well known in the state for its confrontational anti-grazing billboards. The 900-member group aims to give state grazing allotments a break from cows by acquiring available leases, but so far it's been a losing battle.

The group's bid of $2,000 for one allotment was turned down in favor of a rancher's offer of $10, says Bray, and the state Legislature passed a bill in 1995 to prevent environmental groups from getting their hands on state leases.

Reached at home after the vote, Bray says a successful ballot initiative has made his job even harder. House Joint Resolution 6 removes the requirement for competitive bidding on allotments and allows the state land board to extend grazing leases indefinitely.

"There are no rules anymore - it's totally at the discretion of the land board," he says. "We're in for some really tough sledding."

Bray says that now the group may shift almost all of its efforts toward federal grazing allotments. "We're out of the (state) ball game," he says, "but we've got our work cut out for us with the BLM and the Forest Service." - Michelle Nijhuis