The Idaho Land Board sought to end a decade-old battle over grazing endowment lands in 2009 by approving rules that opened up leasing to conservationists and sporting groups.
Now the Idaho Legislature must decide whether to veto the rules aimed at increasing funds for schools or let them pass. The Idaho Cattle Association hopes for a constitutional amendment that can keep ranchers from being forced off of lands they have always used and a re integral parts of their businesses.
The 1.8 million acres of state grazing land have long been identified by financial experts and economists as an under-performing asset among the state´s 2.4 million acres of endowment lands. The constitution requires the Land Board, which is trustee of the lands left to the state by the federal government, to maximize the long term return for the schools and other trustees.
The board formally recognized conservation and recognized in the asset management plan in 2007 the need to reduce administrative costs and expand leasing, said Bob Brammer, who oversees grazing management for the Idaho Department of Lands.
The state had been repeatedly losing money on its grazing lands but in 2008 it made a profit of $213, 358 on revenues of $1, 570,109.
The land board already was studying how to increase its return from grazing lands when a federal lawsuit by an organization called the Lazy Y Ranch, set up to purchase grazing leases, led to a judgment against each of the land board members personally. The federal courts said the board had arbitrarily kept the Lazy Y from winning bids and had violated its owner, Gordon Younger’s civil rights.
As a part of the settlement agreement the board agreed to rewrite the rule to clearly allow conservation and recreation interests to fairly compete for range land leases and reduce administrative costs.