As we reported back in June, a Boise-based development firm has been talking about a 20,000+-acre exchange with the State of Idaho for public lands surrounding the City of McCall and Payette Lake. The Idaho Conservation League has expressed significant concerns with this proposal by Trident Holdings, LLC, and we’re not alone. Public testimony at the November Idaho Land Board meeting also unanimously opposed the proposed land exchange.   

At the same time, the Idaho Department of Lands (IDL) is working to develop a Payette Lands Strategy to help the Land Board determine how best to manage a subset of approximately 5,000+ acres that they own surrounding McCall, and Big and Little Payette Lakes

IDL’s Payette Lands Strategy

IDL hosted three focus group meetings to provide input and recommendations regarding the future management of state lands. ICL participated in these meetings along with other stakeholders including the city, county, and local citizens. Together, the public submitted to IDL over 800 pages of comments on the proposed strategy, with over 95% in favor of retaining these critical public lands for future generations. To watch the focus group meetings and comments check out the IDL Payette Endowment Lands page.

The gist of IDL’s draft strategy, released in December 2020, is to do a phased sell-off of nearly 400 acres of endowment lands on Cougar Island, Shellworth Island, and other lands surrounding Payette Lake and McCall. Now the IDL will present the results of the public process to the Land Board at their meeting on March 16, 2021.

Trident’s proposal

In late February, Trident finally submitted their formal application to the IDL that continues to threaten State Endowment Lands surrounding the community of McCall and Payette Lake with privatization and development.

The for-profit firm has proposed exchanging 20,250 acres of endowment lands in Valley County for roughly 21,000 acres of private timberlands in North Idaho. Trident, in its formal application, seriously undervalues what many consider some of Idaho’s most treasured shores. For example, the North Idaho timberland is valued at $1,200 to $1,800 an acre, whereas lakefront property holds a valuation of $15,000 to $25,000 per linear foot! That’s quite a difference! 

While Trident has proposed to work closely with the city, county, and other stakeholders, they’ve failed to attract any meaningful support. The industrial timberlands they propose to exchange are located primarily in Clearwater, Benewah, Latah, and Shoshone counties. But we don’t know exactly which specific lands because IDL redacted more than 62% of the Trident Application, claiming proprietary exemptions.  Regardless, it’s clear that IDL and Idahoans will not benefit from such an unbalanced and one-sided exchange. If this application goes through, much of the Payette Lake shoreline that is currently accessible to the public would see “No Trespassing” signs go up.

What should be done, instead?

Over the past few months, ICL has been working with fellow stakeholders to identify alternatives that can retain these lands in public hands, while ensuring that the Land Board fulfills the constitutional mandate to maximize long-term financial returns. The bottom line is that there are other options besides privatizing our public lands, including the establishment of recreation leases and conservation easements, and investment by local, county, state, and private entities to protect our public lands for recreation, water quality, and fish and wildlife habitat. 

Instead of finalizing the plan on March 16, we believe that the IDL should take more time. We support the adoption of a Payette Lands Strategy, but want to ensure that we do not make hasty decisions. We’ve owned these lands for 131 years, and shouldn’t rush into making decisions that will impact this landscape for hundreds of years to come. 

The privatization and development of public lands around Payette Lake could set a precedent for how Endowment Lands are managed throughout the state, and these decisions will impact public endowment lands across Idaho. 

We urge you to take action in opposition to the Trident proposal, and let IDL and the Land Board know you support a process that allows time to develop real solutions that benefit the local community. They should not accept an undervalued and unequal proposal. 

We encourage you to share your concerns and comments with IDL and the Land Board. These are public lands, and your voice should be heard!