Friends of Idaho Watersheds Project:
Earlier today (February 4, 2000), Idaho Watersheds Project successfully won the auction for the right to a ten year grazing lease for 640 acres located on one mile of Lake Creek in the East Fork of the Salmon River watershed in Custer County, Idaho.
This 640 acre parcel of Idaho school endowment land is the very first grazing lease which IWP ever applied for in September 1993. Long time IWP supporters will remember that in January 1994 IWP was the only bidder for this lease when Will Ingram, the multimillionaire owner of Ingram's Warm Springs Ranch near Challis, Idaho, refused to bid after IWP bid $30. to open the auction. After rancher Ingram appealed the auction, the Idaho land Board awarded him the lease anyway !
Two years later in 1996 the Idaho Supreme Court unanimously overturned the Land Board for violating the Idaho constitution's mandate that these lands be managed for the "maximum long-term financial return" to the school children of Idaho and threw out the lease remanding the matter back to the Land Board. The Board ordered a new auction in late 1996 in which rancher Ingram's son, Gary Ingram, bid $10.00 and IWP bid $2,000. to win the auction. Gary Ingram then appealed the auction and the Land Board awarded him the lease yet again.
IWP appealed that decision and in October 1999, after IWP had won three unanimous decisions from the Idaho Supreme Court on April 2, 1999 in related cases, Idaho District Judge Roger Burdick threw out the lease again stating that the Land Board had acted in an arbitrary and capricious manner and in violation of law and the constitution. The auction today is the result of Judge Burdick's decision (which was not appealed by the Land Board).
At the auction in Idaho Falls, Gary Ingram opened the bidding for $100. and IWP bid $2,000. which won the auction. Ingram now has 20 days in which to decide whether to appeal the auction to the Land Board.
Many readers will recall that this lease includes critical rearing habitat for threatened chinook salmon, steelhead trout, and bull trout and, perhaps soon to be listed, westslope cutthroat trout.
At long last IWP actually expects to receive this lease (which requires an annual lease payment of $252.00) and help protect an important salmon stream from livestock abuse. We will also show that environmental values are far more valuable than livestock a message which needs to be carried to Washington, D.C. IWP was ably represented at the auction by Board members Kelley Weston and Jon Marvel.