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Idaho Land Board lifts moratorium on state endowment land surrounding Payette Lake

Posted at 3:24 PM, Mar 17, 2021
and last updated 2021-03-17 18:05:14-04

BOISE, Idaho — On Tuesday, the Idaho Land Board of Commissioners ended a moratorium on state endowment land surrounding Payette Lake, meaning the Idaho Department of Lands can now move forward on vetting applications for this land.

That includes Trident Holdings LLC's application they submitted in February, they propose trading land they plan to purchase elsewhere in the state for some of this lakefront property.

State endowment lands were given to Idaho by the federal government when Idaho became a state and the state constitution requires Idaho to use this land to maximize long-term financial returns for public beneficiaries like the public school system.

The land around the lake continues to rise in value, but the land has not generated enough money according to the Land Board.

"We are open for business lets look at some opportunities here where we can close that financial gap especially on those acres around the lake where we are not hitting the mark," said Dustin Miller one of the commissioners of the Land Board. "There are opportunities there where we can get creative and raise the bar for our endowment beneficiaries."

The Land Board also approved the Payette Endowment Land Strategy or (PELS) plan to move away from traditional leases like timber and find a way to take advantage of the land's value in an adaptive way that can change over time, the Idaho Department of Lands put together this focus group to seek possible ideas.

One idea that came from stakeholders of the focus group looks at creating conservation easements to ensure the state holds on to own this valuable land while keeping it from being developed, but this plan would require the stakeholders to purchase the lease, and conservation easements have never been done before in Idaho according to Craig Utter.

"We don’t know what that price is going to be, but we know there is no way the land board can accept anything less than fair market value," said Craig Utter of the Payette Land Trust. "They are going to be the ones that actually determine that and then we have to decide if we want to engage on a conservation easement for that price.”

The stakeholders which include Valley County Commissioners, the Mayor of McCall and other interested parties told us they were disappointed to see the lifting of the moratorium.

“I echo Mayor Giles's concerns about the direction the meeting went today," said Dave Bingaman a Valley County Commissioner. "We were hoping for maybe a little bit more of a pause in the process.”

Lifting the moratorium means the state will start vetting Alec Williams and Trident Holdings application, Williams has said from the beginning he wants to own this land to turn it into true public lands which include a plan for to expand Ponderosa State Park.

However, people have also been skeptical of Trident Holding's plan from the start and we do have their application, but most of it has been redacted.

The majority of public comments have been against the proposal from Trident Holdings including several high school students that spoke at the Land Board meeting.

“Growing up I’d hoped that the leaders of Idaho would protect this land and unfortunately I’m not seeing it right now," said Olivia Bingaman a high school senior at McCall.

There is no timeline for the next steps as the Idaho Department of Lands will start looking at the applications submitted for the land surrounding Payette Lake.