No on a constitutional amendment to protect ranchers from competitive bidding on state lands-
Lake Creek was the straw the broke the bovine's back - it prompted the organization of Idaho Watersheds Project (now Western Watersheds Project). Left: Condition of state land on Lake Creek, July 24, 1994 © Lynne Stone; Right: Condition of state land on Lake Creek July 18, 2007
Idaho was given over 2-million acres of federal land at statehood to be managed to provide maximum income for the public schools.. These school endowment lands do make money for the schools, but almost all of it comes from timber sales in northern Idaho.
The bulk of the stand land acreage, however, has been devoted to livestock grazing. In many years it returns nothing to the schools after administrative costs. It is a nice thing for a few well placed ranchers — low grazing fees and no competition except when once in a while one outfit bids against another to graze the land when the 10-year lease expires.
Jon Marvel and the Idaho (now “Western”) Watersheds Project changed this after a long battle to allow conservation and others to bid to use the land for 10 years.
Despite outbidding the ranchers only to have their winning bids overturned by the Land Board, the Land Board finally relented after losing lawsuit after lawsuit in state court. In 2007 they formally recognized the right of conservationists to bid and win some of these lands for a decade. This not only protects and restores the usually overgrazed land; it puts more money into the public schools. Conservationists are hardly going to snap up all the state lands. They have far too little money for that.
Nevertheless, the powerful Idaho Cattle Association, which nearly rules the Idaho legislature, wants an amendment to the state constitution to allow only ranchers to use these lands. This is at a time the public schools are reeling and Idaho school children even more disadvantaged than usual.
The Magic Valley Times-News editorializes on this latest effort on behalf of welfare ranching. Editorial: Land Board got it right: State lands open to all Idahoans.
Prepare for a disinformation battle. The livestock lobby will be talking about how a little competition will push ranch families off “their” lands.
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