On Tuesday October 3, 2000 Idaho Watersheds Project was the winning bidder at auction for the 5050 acre Robinson Hole ten year grazing lease located in Cassia County, Idaho between Oakley, Idaho and the Utah and Nevada border 15 miles to the south. The lease is located primarily on Middle Mountain between Goose Creek and the Almo City of Rocks National Preserve.
The existing leaseholder, Pickett Ranch & Sheep Company opened the bidding for $1,000. IWP responded with a bid of $4,000. which Pickett followed with a $5,000 bid. IWP followed with an $8,000 bid. Bidding then proceeded in $2,000 increments to a $12,000 bid by IWP after which Picketts made their last bid of $13,000. IWP won the auction with a final bid of $14,000.
In addition to the amount bid, IWP paid, under protest and appeal, the sum of $13,900 which the Idaho department of Lands had determined to be the value of creditable improvements (primarily 5.5 miles of fencing) on the lease for which the previous leaseholder would be compensated. IWP's protest and appeal of the appraisal of value is based on the fact that some of the 5.5 miles of fencing identified in the appraisal may be as much as 50 years old and there is no written record of Pickett Ranch ever having contributed any funds to the installation of fencing at any time on the school trust lands which make-up the lease.
The annual rental for this lease is just over $2,000 per year calculated at $4.95 per AUM.
IWP also provided a management plan for the lease for the ten year period which calls for no grazing by domestic livestock for the entire period.
The Robinson Hole area on Middle Mountain has one of the finest remnant aspen forests in southern Idaho which extends for several miles, most of which is located on the state lease. The removal of livestock from this lease will facilitate the recovery of the understory like snowberry in the aspen forest as well as the growth of aspen root shoots from the clones which have been damaged by both cattle and sheep use. The ten year recovery would also allow the restoration of the headwaters of Cold Creek which 40 years ago had large beaver ponds in what is now a degraded and dewatered upland meadow, as well as other riparian areas including the headwaters of Emery Creek. The lease may also have provided, at one time, habitat for Yellowstone Cutthroat Trout which has been petitioned for listing under the Endangered Species Act (ESA). Significant habitat also exists on the lease for lynx which historically occupied the area and which is now listed as threatened under the ESA.
IWP anticipates a possible legal battle for this lease if the Land Board decides to overturn the auction results and award the lease to the low bidder. Don and Doug Pickett, who represented Pickett Ranch & Sheep Company in the auction, indicated that they would appeal the auction results to the Idaho Land Board.
If awarded to IWP, this lease will increase IWP's grazing acreage under lease in Idaho to over 28,000 acres if IWP is also awarded the 16,000 acre Lacey Meadows lease won at auction in August 2000.
IWP was ably represented at the auction by IWP Executive Director, Jon Marvel; IWP Board President Kelley Weston, and IWP staff biologist Miriam Austin.