On August 10, 2021, the Idaho Department of Lands (IDL) rejected the land exchange application submitted by the Trident investment firm. The proposal would have seen 20,000 acres of Idaho State Endowment Lands surrounding Payette Lake swapped with 20,000 acres of Potlatch-Deltic timberlands in North Idaho in Clearwater, Shoshone, Benewah, and Latah Counties.
The rejection doesn’t come as much of a surprise, since obviously, lands surrounding Big and Little Payette Lakes and the mountains surrounding McCall are worth much more than scattered forestlands in North Idaho. Back in April, the Idaho Conservation League reached the same conclusion in our assessment of the proposal. Not only was it not in the ballpark, it wasn’t even in the same state as the ballpark.
IDL’s assessment found that the lands surrounding McCall could be conservatively estimated at $366 million, with the North Idaho lands generously estimated at $74 million. Because these lands must be managed to maximize returns to the endowment beneficiaries (public schools, universities, prisons, etc.), IDL simply couldn’t pursue the proposal.
But our work is far from done!
It’s possible that Trident Holdings, LLC could submit a revised application to IDL, however given the level of opposition they’ve faced, it’s unclear whether Trident, Potlatch-Deltic, and other investors will double down?
What’s more realistic is that other developers and investors could simply purchase state lands. The Idaho Constitution allows for sales of up to 320 acres to any one individual, and the Land Board approved a strategy for the state-owned Payette Endowment Lands in March 2021 that could sell off up to 400 acres. According to IDL’s proposed staged approach, key state parcels, including Cougar and Shellworth Islands within Payette Lake and important lakeside lots, could be sold off in the coming years.
That’s why ICL and other partners formed United Payette, a coalition of more than 16 organizations, including local homeowners, businesses, and other stakeholders. Together, we’re working to protect these endowment lands for future generations of Idahoans and ensure that the Land Board can meet its constitutional obligation to maximize returns. We’re coordinating with Valley County, the City of McCall, Idaho Department of Lands, Idaho Department of Parks and Recreation, Payette National Forest, and others to find creative solutions and to ensure that these lands remain public.
United Payette will submit a plan to the Idaho Land Board in advance of their September 2021 meeting. That plan will lay out a diversified approach, which could include recreation and conservation leases, conservation easements, and/or potential acquisitions to protect water quality, recreation, wildlife, and other key values on these lands while continuing to provide for public access. The approach would limit harmful development of lands around Payette Lake and protect land by providing new sources of sustainable revenues, supporting the Land Board’s constitutional obligation to maximize long-term financial returns to the endowment.
While it’s encouraging that IDL rejected the Trident application, there’s still much to do. Learn more about United Payette: sign the petition, donate, or add your name or business to the growing list of partners. www.UnitedPayette.org