On June 14, 2001 Western Watersheds Project applied for a controversial expiring ten year grazing lease on more than 7000 acres of Idaho public school endowment land located in a contiguous block in the headwaters of Goldberg Creek and on the lower reaches of Donkey Creek in the Pahsimeroi Valley of central Idaho.
This lease was cancelled by the Idaho Department of Lands on October 17, 2000 for repeated willful non-compliance with a 1995 grazing management plan by the leaseholder, Sulphur Creek Livestock, and its manager, Judd Whitworth. In his lease cancellation letter, Stan Hamilton, the Director of the Department of Lands stated that Sulphur Creek Livestock had exceeded the permitted stocking level of on the lease for three years, had repeatedly placed livestock on the lease before the permitted turnout date, had kept livestock on the lease after the removal deadline and had degraded the resources of the state land and failed to meet management objectives.
Judd Whitworth appealed the cancellation of the lease, and in May 2001, the Idaho Land Board by a 3-2 vote reinstated the lease for the remainder of the lease term which expires December 31, 2001. The Land Board came under a great deal of editorial criticism from all the major daily newspapers across Idaho after reinstating the lease.
Readers will recall that WWP has already sued Judd Whitworth for his irrigation diversion on Mahogany Creek in the Pahsimeroi Valley which dewatered the creek and killed bull trout. WWP has also sent Rancher Whitworth a new 60 day notice letter of WWP's intention to sue him for violating the Endangered Species Act because of livestock corrals he constructed on Burnt Creek, another bull trout occupied stream.
An auction will be scheduled by the Idaho Department of Lands later this summer to determine the high bidder for this lease.
Western Watersheds Project will be proposing a ten year period of rest for this severely degraded lease.