Marvel wins a round

  Anti-ranching activist Jon Marvel has won a favorable decision from the Idaho Supreme Court on the first state grazing lease that he challenged three years ago.

On June 20, Idaho's highest court ruled that the state Land Board violated the state constitution by awarding a 640-acre grazing lease to a Challis rancher, even though the rancher failed to bid a dime during a public auction. Marvel had bid $30.

The Supreme Court said that the Land Board, composed of the governor, secretary of state, attorney general, state school superintendent and state controller, must collect top dollar from state leases, as required by the constitution.

The case has been remanded to Blaine County magistrate court. The ruling is expected to spur a new auction for the Lake Creek lease, a square mile of state land that includes a salmon-bearing stream.

"I honestly feel they should award us the lease," Marvel said, "but that's not probable due to the political makeup of the Land Board."

Former Gov. Cecil Andrus was the only Land Board member to vote against awarding the lease to rancher Will Ingram. Ingram testified in 1994 before a packed meeting room that he did not bid any money for the lease because he objected to a non-rancher bidding for a state grazing lease.

Since 1993, Marvel has applied for about 25 grazing leases involving some 40,000 acres. He has never been granted a lease.

*Steve Stuebner

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