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Idaho denies proposed land exchange

The state found that the timber tracts offered in a proposed trade are worth much less than the land around Payette Lake.


McCall residents gathered at a protest in July 2021 to oppose a land swap of 20,000 acres of state endowment land around Payette Lake.

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The growing central Idaho resort town of McCall sits on the southern edge of Payette Lake, which is largely surrounded by endowment land: state-owned, publicly accessible land that generates funds for public schools, often through timber sales. In February, Trident Holdings LLC, a private investment company, proposed swapping what it claimed were equally valuable timber lands in North Idaho for about 20,000 acres of endowment land around the lake. The company said it intended to build houses and expand a park there, despite community opposition (“Growing pains,” 4/1/21).


In August, the state denied the proposed exchange. Endowment land must be managed to maximize long-term financial returns, and an Idaho Department of Lands estimate found that the North Idaho tracts were not worth as much as the area around Payette Lake: less than $75 million compared to more than $365 million, reports BoiseDev. “In my opinion,” wrote a state advisor, “there are better strategies … that would provide significantly more net benefit to the endowment than the proposed exchange.”

Emily Benson is an associate editor at High Country News, covering the northwest, the northern Rockies and Alaska. We welcome reader letters. Email her at [email protected] or submit a letter to the editor.See our letters to the editor policy.