Friday, November 20, 2009

Cronyism and good ol' boy politics

The Statesman has a story about Lazy Y Ranch, LTD, settling a grazing dispute with the state of Idaho. Idaho's land board has refused to allow environmentalists to lease grazing lands, instead discriminating in favor of ranchers.

Hailey architect Jon Marvel, who I believe used to act alone but is now associated with the Western Watersheds Project, and Gordon Younger of the Lazy Y, would out bid ranchers for grazing leases. I'm working from memory so if I'm incorrect, please correct me in the comments, but I think I recall that Marvel's motivation was to bid up the lease to a more accurate market value, believing that the land board was allowing sweetheart deals to favored ranchers. In some cases, only one rancher would bid on the parcels. Some parcels had been leased to the same family for generations. Marvel also said that he wanted to rehabilitate the overgrazed and depleted land.

Younger "planned to manage the lands to restore what he called 'their degraded streams and wildlife habitats.'"

The settlement requires the state to revise the bidding rules. The Deputy Attorney, Clive Strong, who is well known for his expertise in natural resource issues, said this:
Idaho's new leasing rules will help create a level playing field for all parties interested in securing a lease - and help the state avoid costly lawsuits.
This is fascinating, for two reasons. One, he's admitting that the prior rules did not have a "level playing field." Two, he's acknowledging that the Land Board's discrimination is costly to the state. In this case the state is paying the Lazy Y $50,000 as part of the settlement.

One wonders how much more money the State of Idaho would have received for schools over the years if the leases had been competitively bid. One also wonders in how much better environmental shape the parcels would be, and how much better hunting and fishing would in the parcels, if the Board hadn't favored ranchers all these years. Cronyism and good ol' boy politics exact a price from the many in favor of the connected few.


fortboise said...

There was no need to "admit" the bias in the leasing, the Idaho Supreme Court already ruled that there had been, and that it was illegal.

Alan said...

Yes, that's true.