HB 587: Revenge of a failed land exchange – 2022
ICL's position: Oppose
Current Bill Status: Dead
Issue Areas: Idaho Department of Lands, Payette Lake, Public Lands
House Bill 587, introduced by Rep. Terry Gestrin (R-Donnelly) on behalf of Trident Holdings, LLC, would make significant changes to the Idaho Department of Lands (IDL) process for considering land exchanges, would make it more difficult to hire staff and would allow for the hiring of outside legal counsel.
What would the bill do?
First, the bill would require a “current real estate appraiser license” for the Idaho Department of Lands – Real Estate Bureau Chief. When the IDL needs an appraisal, they contract it out to a third-party, and the current bureau chief doesn’t have an appraisal license, meaning he would be removed.
Next, the bill would establish a powerful “ombudsman” position within IDL with significant powers. Among them, the ombudsman would “ensure that new department hires have significant industry experience.” The new position would also have the power to hire, oversee and fire outside legal counsel. The ombudsman would also provide “all instructions to appraisers” and outside experts related to leases, sales or exchanges of state land.
Finally, the bill would require the ombudsman to evaluate all land exchanges and would mandate a full appraisal of any exchange greater than 10,000 acres.
Problems with the bill
The IDL is currently represented by the Office of the Attorney General, which saves Idaho taxpayer dollars and ensures consistency with the Land Board, upon which the Attorney General serves as a member.
In the midst of the most challenging labor shortage that our nation has faced in decades, the Idaho Department of Lands has struggled to fill key positions. By creating new hurdles, the bill would further challenge the agency by requiring “significant industry experience” for all positions including firefighters, administrative support and key administrator positions alike.
The requirement to conduct a full appraisal of any exchanges that exceed 10,000 acres would result in costly appraisals, even when it’s clear that the proposed exchanges fail to be in the state’s best interest. The IDL already does appraisals for any sales or exchanges that have merit, so this would simply add unnecessary work to an already heavy workload.
Trident Holdings is a private firm pursuing a land exchange with the State of Idaho, seeking to acquire 20,000 acres of state lands that encircle Payette Lake and the community of McCall. The proposal attracted significant concern from the local residents, regional and statewide organizations, the City of McCall, Valley County and others.
In August, the Idaho Land Board joined the chorus of critics by rejecting their proposal because it was clear that it would not be in the state’s best interest. In response, Trident appealed the Land Board’s decision and were rejected once again.
Then they filed suit in state court, arguing that the Land Board was biased against their proposal, even though it was clear that the exchange of 21,000 acres of scattered Potlatch-Deltic Corporation land in North Idaho would be valued well below the high value lands that surround Payette Lake.
Now they’re bringing the fight to the legislative arena, seeking revenge against IDL staff and the Attorney General, even though it was clear the Trident Exchange was never in the state’s interest.