On Tuesday October 9, 2001 Western Watersheds Project filed a lawsuit in Idaho Fourth District Court in Boise against the Idaho Board of Land Commissioners. The lawsuit charges the Land Board violated the Idaho Constitution in refusing to act favorably on WWP's application for a change in use of a 680 acre expired grazing lease in Owyhee County, Idaho at Sam Noble Springs in the headwaters of Rock Creek.
WWP had applied to the Idaho Department of Lands (DOL) in November 1999 to reclassify the lease from grazing to a miscellaneous lease for sensitive species habitat conservation. The species at issue is the Columbia Spotted Frog, a candidate species for listing under the Endangered Species Act. The Sam Noble Springs is one of the largest known hibernacula of this species whose habitat and migration routes has been shown to be at risk because of livestock grazing which destroys riparian corridors essential to the survival of the species and destroys water quality among other negative impacts. The DOL denied the application in December 1999, and WWP appealed that decision to the Land Board which took 22 months to schedule a hearing. WWP offered to pay twice the annual lease fee charged rancher Chris Black for ten years and to pay for fencing to separate the leasehold from adjacent private lands.
In failing to consider the "maximum long-term financial return" to the school children of Idaho or to act to "carefully preserve" the land as required by the Idaho Constitution, the Land Board has violated the law.
WWP has yet to lose a lawsuit brought against the Idaho Land Board with a current decision record at the Idaho Supreme Court of 4-0; all decisions in WWP's favor were unanimous. WWP is, once again, ably represented by attorney Laird Lucas of Boise, Idaho.
LOOK AT the text of the petition (.doc) filed on Sam Noble Springs.