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On the block: Land Board says it will auction McCall’s Cougar Island

The Idaho Land Board voted Tuesday to move forward with an auction of lots on Cougar Island in Payette Lake near McCall.

As BoiseDev reported in April, a local auction firm listed the lots on the island for future auction, as early as this summer.

The Valley County Commission came out against the auction, writing a letter to the Idaho Dept. of Lands asking the panel to reconsider auctioning off the 14-acre piece of land.

“Cougar Island is what we are really concerned about,” commissioner Edgar Allen said in May. “Looking long term at Valley County, it’s just not a good thing to happen. Cougar Island is a gem of Payette Lake.”

Commissioner Sherri Maupin said during Tuesday’s meeting in Boise that the county was working to raise funds for a potential land exchange for the island, but said the county was not yet prepared to make a formal application.

Due to the objection filed by the county, the auction process had to again go before the Idaho Land Board to ensure it wanted to move forward with the auction.

It did.

The panel, made up of Gov. Brad Little, Attorney General Lawrence Wasden, Secretary of State Lawrence Denney, Superintendent of Public Instruction Sheri Ybarra and State Controller Brandon Woolf, voted unanimously to move forward with the auction.

No member of the board had any comments on the action.

Part of cottage site auctions

The process was triggered when the existing homeowner on the island, Jim Laskey, asked the state to auction the property under the home. Private parties own the structures on state endowment lands around Payette Lake – but lease the property from the state. The house alone has been listed for sale, including in 2013.

“Ten summers ago I had the opportunity to acquire the lease… since then my family has spent as much time during the summer enjoying the beauty on the island that Idaho has to offer,” Laskey said. He said he’s worked to keep a light footprint on the island and hopes to take over full ownership. Laskey noted that he’s been working through the process for several years and has seen the auction canceled before and the process delayed.

The Voluntary Auction for Ownership process outlined by the Idaho Land Board allows those cottage site lessees to ask for the site to go to an open public auction. The auction process allows for the land and building to be united under one common ownership.

After the request, IDL decided to look at auctioning not just the one cottage site on the island – but the entire island. Each parcel will be auctioned individually, and then a separate auction will be held for the whole island. If the whole island auction fetched a higher price than the sum total of the individual parcel auctions, one bidder could get the entire thing.

The Department of Lands has looked to sell off Cougar Island before, but in 2020 the Idaho Land Board stepped back from the idea after community pressure.

Cougar Island was included in a sweeping, and ultimately rejected, proposal by Boise-based Trident Holdings to swap high-profile Idaho endowment lands around Payette Lake for unspecified timberlands in North Idaho. A later idea by the US Forest Service to swap federal lands in Adams County for land around Payette Lake did not include the island. The United Payette group has also submitted a proposal for some of the endowment lands.

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Don Day - BoiseDev Editor & Founder
Don Day - BoiseDev Editor & Founder
Don is the founder and publisher of BoiseDev. He is a National Edward R. Murrow Award winner and a Stanford University John S. Knight Fellow. Contact him at [email protected].

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