By FRANK PRIESTLEY
For the Capital Press
Jon Marvel was recently caught lying to obtain federal grazing permits and got a dose of his own medicine. The shady undertakings of the Hailey architect and his Western Watersheds Project came to the forefront in mid-March when Marvel and crony Gordon Younger of Seattle admitted they lied to obtain grazing permits from the Bureau of Land Management.
Marvel and Younger were fined $250 each, which they paid without protest. Marvel's attorney, Laird Lucas of Boise, described the incident as no big deal -- about like a traffic ticket.
We think it's more than that -- much more. We believe it should be enough to unravel Marvel and his organization and keep them from ever obtaining another grazing permit. What this incident proves is that being honest with state and federal agencies doesn't fit Marvel's agenda. He will do or say whatever it takes to carry out his ruthless agenda of manipulating the courts to keep ranchers from using public land for grazing.
To further explain the infraction, in order to obtain a grazing permit, the holder must have a plan to utilize the resource. In other words, if you are going to bid on a grazing permit, or acquire a permit by purchasing an existing ranch, eventually you'll need some livestock to eat the grass on the public-owned allotments. In this case there was a three-year grace period but Marvel was out of compliance by at least five years.
In spite of requirements to put grazing livestock on the land, Marvel and his ilk have been able to obtain several state and federal grazing permits over the last 17 years. Marvel and Younger claimed they were in the process of acquiring livestock for their Greenfire Preserve on the East Fork of the Salmon River near Clayton, but never followed through, which is what specifically got them into trouble with the BLM. A BLM official in Challis said there are livestock auctions held every week and they had ample time to purchase the livestock needed to fulfill their commitment. When BLM began steps to revoke their permit, they claimed they were being discriminated against.
Two-faced and phony seem like other fitting words in describing Marvel's claim of discrimination. For years he has hired lawyers to sue ranchers, state and federal agencies and others for alleged grazing permit violations. Yet, when he is found in violation of his own permit, it's discrimination. He expects ranchers to live by an entirely different set of standards than he is willing to live by himself.
We believe Marvel is a hypocrite who has built his organization on a foundation of misrepresentations. Marvel and WWP hold grazing permits on several thousand acres of state and federal lands. The Idaho Land Board and the U.S. Forest Service should follow BLM's lead and take a careful review to make sure Marvel is in compliance with the law. If not the permits should be revoked and put to use by ranchers who will properly manage the land, which in turn will generate commerce in surrounding communities.
Frank Priestley is president of the Idaho Farm Bureau.