The Idaho Department of Lands runs 183,000 acres of land around Payette Lake and Little Payette Lake. The land is at the center of a proposal from Trident Development to move the land to private hands.
But the state continues on a different path, and Thursday, the Land Board held a focus group with stakeholders to discuss endowment land surrounding the lake.
Congress granted Idaho endowment trust lands when Idaho first became a state. The only purpose of these lands is funding specified beneficiaries, mostly public schools. The Idaho Constitution requires that revenue comes from these lands.
After the stakeholder meeting which discussed the endowment land and allowed for stakeholders to share thoughts and questions, the Idaho Department of Lands’ Ryan Montoya virtually appeared in front of the McCall City Council. Montoya presented information from the stakeholder meeting to the council and any members of the public tuning in.
Seventy-four-thousand acres of that land are timberland. But there is also transition land, land that Montoya says is not traditional in asset categories. These include farmland, timberland and minerals
“So there are ways that we can increase value of the returns on these lands and that’s to stack leases,” Montoya said. “If we have timberland, we can have grazing leases within there or recreation as well, that increases the returns which minimizes the gap. So the plan is really looking at the transition lands in a community context that require long-range evaluation.”
Montoya says essentially that there are lands they own that are ready for transition. To give the council a better idea of where these transition lands are, Montoya discussed Deinhard which is next to McCall-Donnelly High School. Earlier in the council meeting, the council heard a presentation on a school facility expansion.
“The High School is right next to that Deinhard parcel. That’s in an area that could be used for other purposes besides just sitting fallow,” he said. “…If you think about the growth and where the probable uses are. Deinhard, for example, is probably more obvious as a use being transitioned from just bare land into something that can produce increased revenue. Compared to something like the tip of the lake where you don’t have infrastructure, there’s limited access.”
Following this, Montoya explained the phases that the Idaho Department of Lands have planned. Phase one is transiting underperforming land within one to five years. Montoya emphasized that this does not mean they will develop within that time frame.
“What it’s saying is that the department has only so much staff,” he said. “That we’re looking at these as the low hanging fruit that we should be able to look at as having the highest probability of success for trying to get increased revenue. So that’s what we’re looking at. Underperforming assets have higher and better uses their surrounding utilities, infrastructure and zoning that promotes those potential uses.”
The focus group will hold three more meetings before submitting their thoughts and ideas to the Land Board. Following the first meeting, public comment is still available until February 12.