As we reported back in June, a Boise-based development firm is proposing a massive exchange with the State of Idaho for public lands surrounding the City of McCall and Payette Lake. More details are coming out about the proposal, and the Land Board heard a presentation from Trident Holdings, LLC on November 17. Based on what we’ve seen, the Idaho Conservation League and many allies continue to have serious concerns with the proposal.

At the Land Board meeting, the Idaho Department of Lands also presented an outline of a Lands Analysis that proposes more of a phased approach to potential sale, retention, or conservation of their lands that surround McCall.

The basic outline of the proposal from Trident Holdings, LLC is to acquire 20,000 to 28,000 acres of Idaho State Endowment Land by exchanging ~31,000 acres of still unidentified industrial timberlands in North Idaho, upon which Trident has apparently secured an option but does not own. Trident would develop approximately 2,500+ acres for luxury homes, resorts and lodges near the lake, and in the mountains north of McCall. According to the proposal, Trident would also develop 280 acres in town for lower-income housing, a recreation center and other residential development. Trident would then donate back or conserve the remaining 17,000 to 25,000 acres as a state park or conservation area, which could also include development of lakeside or mountain resorts or other lodges.

Consultants hired by Trident point to other developments they’ve been involved with including the Santa Lucia Preserve in Carmel, CA and the Yellowstone Club near Big Sky, MT. These ultra-exclusive developments attract billionaires, with joining fees of $300,000, properties selling between $2 million to $25 million and annual fees of $37,500. At the Santa Lucia Preserve, escorted hiking tours might be arranged for members of the public, as long they don’t “affect the quiet enjoyment of private homeowners.”

Is this the future of McCall?

Local citizens and stakeholders have reacted with alarm, submitting over 600 comments and 5,000+ petition signatures in opposition to the McCall City Council and Idaho Land Board. The response from ICL, and other organizations has been overwhelmingly opposed. We’ve been digging into the details of the proposal, and are committed to finding solutions that will safeguard the integrity of Payette Lake and the surrounding landscape. We’re also working with dozens of partner groups and building support for alternative approaches that provide protection for these critical public lands. One of those partners, the Payette Endowment Lands Alliance, recently launched a website dedicated to the topic.

Do IDL and the Land Board have to consider the Trident proposal?

Pursuant to the Idaho Constitution, the Land Board must maximize revenue from state endowment lands over the long-term. If the McCall lands have the potential to generate more money for beneficiaries (including public schools, universities and state hospitals), the Land Board must consider them. But, they also have discretion to retain lands that generate revenue from timber sales and leases, which continue to grow in value. Other options could include public-private initiatives to secure conservation leases, easements, or acquisition by other state or federal agencies. Bottom line is that we need time to identify the best way to move forward to retain and protect these lands for future generations of Idahoans.

So far, Trident hasn’t formally submitted an application and the Land Board has a moratorium in place, preventing any new leases, sales or exchanges. That moratorium is scheduled to end in February upon the final approval of the Lands Analysis, but ICL and others are advocating for an extension.

It’s also noteworthy that Trident has threatened to sue if the Land Board rejects their proposal, and Trident estimates the state would face legal costs of $10 million, over ten years. It’s buried on page 96 of the 106-page proposal.

What can you do?

Watch the November 17 Land Board Meeting. to hear presentations and testimony on both the Trident proposal and the Lands Analysis.

Once completed in December, IDL will accept public comment on their Land Analysis, before it’s submitted to the Land Board for approval in February.

Both the City of McCall and Valley County are also considering issues related to development and land use on these lands.

We encourage you to read the proposal from Trident, review the Lands Analysis outline and keep an eye out for information from ICL on how to contact decision-makers whose choices today will affect our public lands for decades to come.