BOISE, Idaho (AP) -- Idaho environmental and sporting groups are due to get a better shot at winning competitive state land leases over ranchers, under new rules up for debate Wednesday.

The House and Senate resource committees will take up the rules, which emerged last year in a settlement where state officials promised to end years of discrimination to resolve a federal lawsuit.

A Seattle environmentalist had sued after the Idaho State Land Board awarded seven grazing leases to ranchers in 2006, even though he'd offered more money. Idaho's Constitution requires Land Board members reap maximum returns from such endowment land to benefit public schools.

Laird Lucas, the environmentalist's lawyer, says encouraging competition means more cash for education during tough budget times. If lawmakers reject the rules, the settlement could be doomed.

Carl Ellsworth, Idaho Cattle Association president, says his group is fearful the rules could drive ranchers out of business and pledged to push for some changes.

Copyright 2010 The AP.

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