In September, the Western Watersheds Project announced that it was seeking a successor to Jon Marvel, its founder and executive director. Marvel, who lives in Hailey, Idaho, began his campaign to end public lands grazing back in the early 1990s, following a dispute with a neighboring rancher whose cattle bedded down on Marvel’s property and munched on his grass. This inspired Marvel, an architect, to start the Idaho Watersheds Project.
His group made headlines in 1996 when it successfully bid on state grazing leases with the intent of removing cows from the range once it controlled the leases. Marvel’s goal, both then and now, was to puncture what he sees as the unholy alliance between ranchers and public-lands agencies, which, he says, has caused the ecological degradation of most of the West through excessive livestock grazing. High Country News covered his bare-knuckled crusade in an in-depth cover story in 1999. HCN Publisher Paul Larmer recently caught up with the 65-year-old activist via phone. Click here to read the interview.