November 20, 2020


The Idaho Department of Lands and its governing body, the state land board, are well known for their inertia in the management of state endowment lands around McCall. That has not served the state well in the past, but when it comes to long-range planning of endowment land, slow and steady is the best course.

On Tuesday, the land board saw the latest dog-and-pony show from Alec Williams of Trident Holdings, which first broached the audacious idea last June of swapping the state’s entire 28,000-acre inventory of land around McCall for timber land in northern Idaho. The proposal is called Preserve McCall, but is a thinly veiled effort to develop some of the most valuable parcels of state land in IDL’s inventory under the guise of “conserving” less desirable lands around McCall as “park” land.”

Williams, a 33-year-old Wall Street financier, is labeling himself as the state’s savior, saying his efforts will allow the land board to “finally get out of this painful McCall business.” He apparently was referring to the decades-long ordeal of managing, and finally disposing, of leases for private homes on state land around Payette Lake. He also may have been referring to the coming tumult if the state decides to move forward with its plans to develop endowment parcels in Pilgrim Cove and along Deinhard Lane under its stated policy of disregarding local planning and zoning laws.

But the Idaho Department of Lands is the devil we know, with all of its quirks, while Trident Holdings is the devil we don’t know and can’t know without years of unnecessary analysis of its grandiose and impractical proposal. The land board should thank Williams for his concerns about the future of state lands around McCall, appreciate his donation of tens of thousands of dollars in research to the State of Idaho and invite him to share his comments at any time. But Preserve McCall has no prospects, and it is best that Trident Holdings be let down easy sooner than later.

The sometimes whimsical management of endowment lands by the IDL has at times sometimes been maddeningly frustrating, but a deliberate evaluation of the future of small chunks of the state’s endowment is far preferable to a wholesale swap with unknown implications.

Republished with permission from the McCall Star-News.