On Tuesday morning February 8, 2000, the Idaho Board of Land Commissioners by a 3-2 vote awarded Idaho Watersheds Project a ten year grazing lease for 5223 acres located on over four miles of the South Fork of Lime Creek and several colorfully named tributaries such as Hearn, Ear, Roanhide, Hole-in-Wall, McCarter, Nettie and Salt Log Creeks. The degradation of these streams by cattle mismanagement is acknowledged by the Idaho Department of Lands in their assessment of current conditions on the lease in Camas County, Idaho.
This lease was one of the 26 which were voided by the Idaho Supreme Court in a unanimous decision on April 2, 1999 in a suit prosecuted with legal excellence by IWP attorney, Laird Lucas of the Land and Water Fund of the Rockies when the Land Board refused to let IWP bid for these leases in 1996.
IWP competed in two auctions for this lease (it has now been combined into one lease) against multi-millionaire rancher, Fred Faulkner, of the Diamond A Livestock Company of Gooding, Idaho in October 1999. IWP outbid Faulkner by a total of $350. with bids of $750. and $1,800. Faulkner then appealed the auction to the Land Board. The annual cost to IWP for the ten year term of the lease is $2,930.00 per year.
The lease currently is rated at having 617 AUMs or enough forage for 200 cow/calf pairs for approximately three months. IWP has reached an understanding with the Fairfield Ranger District of the Sawtooth National Forest which will result in the elimination of 617 AUMs from the use of the Middle Fork/Bremner Allotment of which these school trust lands make-up about one third.
The net result of this award is about 30% real reduction in cattle use on the South Fork of Lime Creek which provides habitat for threatened bull trout, and with the help of IWP's volunteers and staff monitoring over the season of use, there should be a remarkable improvement of the riparian areas on the leased land.
IWP has been informed that the award of the lease to IWP was supported today by Superintendent of Public Instruction, Marilyn Howard, State Controller J.D. Williams, and Attorney-General Al Lance. in opposition were Secretary of State Pete Cenarrusa (a sheep rancher), and Governor Dirk Kempthorne.
This is a remarkable victory for stream protection in Idaho, for threatened bull trout, for Idaho's school children, and for IWP!
IWP extends a special thanks to Gary Richardson of the Friends of Lime Creek for providing excellent photographs to the Land Board of degradation caused by livestock on the South Fork and for attending and speaking up at the two Land Board meetings which addressed this large lease.