Trident Holdings formally submitted its application with the State of Idaho to swap timberlands in North Idaho for a significant area around Payette Lake in the McCall area.
The 73-page document outlines Trident’s idea to buy timberland, then exchange it with the State of Idaho for about 26 square miles of land in Valley County. The land includes the tree-covered areas that frame Payette Lake, several islands in the lake itself, a few parcels in Pilgrim Cove and a large parcel near Deinhard Ln. in McCall.
The formal proposal represents a significant reduction from Trident’s earlier vision – to trade for 44 square miles. The updated proposal largely removes lands south of Little Payette Lake, as well as several parcels in Pilgrims Cove. Those lands would remain as Idaho endowment lands.
The Idaho Department of Lands currently has a moratorium on any land swaps in the McCall area, an action it took after Trident first approached the Idaho Land Board last summer.
But Alec Williams, principal for Trident, said he felt they needed to move forward with the application to move the process along.
“In December (the Land Board) didn’t feel they could consider this proposal without the application,” Williams told BoiseDev. “We wanted to have a complete application when we submitted. We’ve been told since there is still a moratorium, we are waiting for the Land Board’s direction.”
Separately, the state – at the direction of the Land Board – is undertaking a long-range planning effort for the land, with stakeholder groups and other activities ongoing.
A representative for Trident provided BoiseDev a copy of the proposal. However, Trident redacted 47 of the 73 pages – a full 64% of the document. Trident claims exemptions in Idaho law around trade secrets and appraisal of real property for the redacted portions of the document. BoiseDev also requested a copy of the proposal from the State of Idaho under Idaho’s public records act, but the state did not fulfill the request by the deadline for this story.
Williams said some of the redacted portions detail the Northern Idaho timberlands Trident hopes to acquire and trade.
“We have confidentiality obligations to people who would like to sell but only wants to do so once the state decides to do this,” he said. “This is a question of timing. It’s a question of what is the appropriate period of time to disclose those things? Is it the appropriate time to list every land seller to list those identifies before the decision to undertake this is made — before the due diligence is ever made? (Revealing that) will be a natural and requiredpart of this process.”
To Land Board next
The Idaho Land Board will ultimately get the final say on the proposal As we’ve reported in the past, Trident hopes to use a provision in Idaho’s constitution that requires the Idaho Land Board to maximize return on lands in the Idaho endowment trust for the benefit primarily of schools in the state. Trident says the lands around McCall currently underperform, and that a swap for timberland in North Idaho would provide a greater return for the state.
A spokesperson for Idaho Gov. Brad Little said his office is aware of the proposal.
“The Governor’s Office is aware the proposal was submitted to the Idaho Department of Lands,” press secretary MarissaMorrison Hyer said. “The department will go through its process of evaluating the proposal and provide the Land Board its recommendations on how to move forward.”
As the proposal broke into public view last summer, it garnered signficiant public opposition. At a public meeting of the Land Board in December, every person who testified about the proposal – said they were against it.
Williams thinks the proposal acted as a lightning rod for pent up frustration.
“(Our proposal) has amplified a lot of the frustrations that this area has experienced for decades that didn’t start with this idea,” Williams said. “Having the Land Board manage endowment holdings in McCall strictly as the fiduciary of the schools has never been popular for people who like this area for their access and their recreation.”
‘Long term’ solution
Wllliams’ pitch, as we’ve outlined before, would transfer portions of the land to a permanent park – expanding the current Ponderosa State Park that sits along Payette Lake. The transfer would get its funding from selling or undertaking development actions on other portions of the land.
Williams acknowledged that the proposal could eventually mean home sites would pop up in the wooded hills that frame Payette Lake. Though, he says under the current Land Board approach, that could happen anyway.
“We do have development areas… we do want the county and the city to have a leading voice in telling us where. You have a lot of flexibility as to where it goes and where it looks like. (But) you need to provide some economic engine that pays for this park. There does need to be some sort of economic engine for that.”
Jeff Mousseau, who lives in McCall and helped spearhead opposition to the plan, said the Land Board shouldn’t act on one factor alone.
“You don’t forsake the public trust for the almighty dollar,” he told BoiseDev. “You don’t screw up the water quality of Payette Lake to maximize the financial return. There has to be other considerations that the state will make according to the laws and constitution.”
He said the Land Board – which is made up of elected officials including Little, Secretary of State Lawrence Denney, Attorney General Lawrence Wasden, State Controller Brandon Woolf, and Superintendent of Public Instruction Sherri Ybarra – has a long-term obligation to the state.
“What do you want your legacy to be here? You don’t want to be the guy who screwed up the lands and water around Payette Lake,” Mousseau said.
But Williams said this also presents an opportunity for the state to mostly get out of the business of making land decisions around McCall – though under the formal proposal the state would retain some land.
“This is a unique way to get off the piecemeal path and do something that is more permanent.”