Idaho state land grazing
Lazy Y Ranch v. Wiggins, 06-cv-340-MHW (D. Idaho)
Laird J. Lucas
Executive Director Laird Lucas has brought a series of lawsuits against the Idaho State Land Board over the last decade, based on their refusal to award school land leases to conservationists seeking to pay more money to protect and restore the lands.
The Idaho Supreme Court has issued several decisions, all holding that it violates Idaho’s constitutional requirements for the Land Board to turn down the higher lease offers made by conservationists, and instead award state leases to livestock operators that offer lower bids. See, e.g., Idaho Watersheds Project v. State Board of Land Commissioners, 982 P.2d 371 (1999).
In 2006, Laird filed federal court litigation against State Land Board officials after they rejected high bids at auction by Lazy Y Ranch, which also sought state grazing leases for conservation purposes. The U.S. Court of Appeals for the Ninth Circuit affirmed that the Land Board officials could be held liable for violating equal protection rights under the federal constitution, by discriminating against conservationists in awarding state leases. Lazy Y Ranch Ltd. v. Behrens, 546 F.3d 580 (9th Cir. 2008) (see attached decision).
In November 2009, the Idaho Land Board agreed to settle that case by revising their regulations to now allow conservation leases of state lands; and promised not to discriminate against conservation applicants in the future.