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Idaho Falls stockyards close after 86 years

1960s aerial photo of the Idaho Falls Stockyard

The Idaho Falls Stockyard in the 1950s. Photo courtesy of the Idaho Livestock Auction.

IDAHO FALLS — The final gavel has come down at the Idaho Falls stockyard.

After 86 years of operation, the iconic business along the Union Pacific tracks held its last livestock auction on Dec. 18.

The eight-acre parcel is in the old commercial business district that grew northeast out of Idaho Falls’ historic downtown. The City Council approved the purchase of the property from the Idaho Livestock Auction Company in September for $675,000 following an environmental review.

Before the property can be used, it will require environmental remediation to remove the effects of eight decades of animal manure and related wastes. Idaho Falls received a $600,000 brownfields grant from the U.S. Environmental Protection Agency in 2018, and money from this grant will help fund the clean up of the site, according to city spokesman Bud Cranor.

“The purpose of the grant was to help the city revitalize the downtown area,” Cranor said. “This is exactly the type of property targeted by the federal grant.”

The city will use the stockyard property to build its first-ever dedicated police station.

“After 155 years of Idaho Falls’ existence, it’s about time that our police department had their own home,” Cranor remarked. “Police headquarters are currently in a wing of the county courthouse with satellite offices spread around the city. We’ve never had a dedicated law enforcement facility.”

The purchase of the stockyards and the decision to use it for law enforcement was timely. A citizen review committee urged the city to build a dedicated police station in August. Their report recommended that the city use property at least five acres or larger for that purpose.

For all but the first three years of its existence, the Idaho Livestock Auction and its stockyard in Idaho Falls was owned and operated by three generations of the Skelton family. Floyd Skelton was its first manager when the stockyards opened in 1933. He then bought the operation in 1936. At the time, the area was on the edge of town, outside of city limits and bordered by farmland.

Floyd Skelton’s son, Leon, ran the stockyards after Floyd stepped down. Leon managed the business up until his death in December 2018. Operation of the stockyards was then assumed by Leon’s son-in-law, Richard Swarz.

The stockyards were put up for sale in August. According to a Facebook message to their customers, the business closed because Leon had passed away and the rest of the Skelton family management was already at retirement age.

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