LEWISTON — The University of Idaho Foundation has decided to sell a 120-acre parcel on a northcentral Idaho mountain that’s home to bighorn sheep to the state Department of Fish and Game, not a Washington state resident who bid more money.
The foundation accepted a $122,100 bid from the state agency for the parcel on Craig Mountain, not the $126,000 bid from Steve Heitstuman during an auction in March.
Heitstuman protested and the foundation put the sale on hold late last month.
On Thursday, the foundation’s attorney, J. Frederick Mack of Boise, wrote Heitstuman’s attorney to tell him the sale to Fish and Game would proceed, the Lewiston Tribune reported.
Mack says the foundation was persuaded to take the lower bid because the agency will allow the university to conduct research on the property along with the rest of its holdings on Craig Mountain south of Lewiston.
“The foundation’s actions were consistent with its right to choose an offer that was lower than the highest offer it received,” Mack wrote.
Fish and Game already owns about 78,000 acres south of Lewiston that makes up its Craig Mountain Wildlife Management Area, where it aims to preserve wildlife and fish habitat along the lower Snake and Salmon rivers.
Special hunting tags for the mountain’s bighorn sheep bring in tens of thousands of dollars at auction.
Now, Heitstuman is waiting for advice from his attorney, Danny Radakovich, before deciding on a lawsuit. Radakovich says options include seeking an injunction to block the sale.
The nonprofit University of Idaho Foundation was established in 1970 to attract private financial support to aid the school and manage assets for its benefit.
But Radakovich is researching whether the foundation must abide by state bidding rules, something the foundation says isn’t required.
A resident of Clarkston, Heitstuman owns property adjacent to the 120 acres, as well as other parcels on the mountain.
On Thursday, he said he had no plans to open a private hunting club or hunting lodge on the parcel if his bid were accepted and said previously he has no intention of grazing cattle on the land.
“My ultimate goal has always been to trade the smaller pieces of land I own to the Fish and Game Department and block up my own land to a larger piece of property,” Heitstuman said.