Idaho sells only 1 of 5 island parcels on Payette Lake

September 14, 2022 GMT

EAGLE, Idaho (AP) — Idaho officials on Wednesday sold only one of five parcels at an auction involving a 14-acre island in Payette Lake near the vacation and second-home town of McCall in west-central Idaho.

The Idaho Department of Lands sold one lot on Cougar Island for its appraised value of just over $2 million to Jim Laski of Bellevue, Idaho. Laski has been leasing the lot from the state and built a cabin on it.

The agency also offered for sale the other four lots or the island as a whole, but they went unsold.

The Lands Department in a news release said it “will evaluate the next step for the other parcels on the island. The goal remains maximizing the return on behalf of the endowment beneficiary.”

The state constitution requires the Idaho Land Board, which directs the Land Department and is comprised of the governor and four other statewide elected officials, to maximize financial return over the long term, benefitting mainly public schools. State land managers told the Land Board that the island was underperforming financially, and selling the entire island or individual parcels was in the state’s best interest.

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Republican Gov. Brad Little and four other members of the Idaho Land Board voted 5-0 in June to reaffirm a previous board decision to sell the island.

Only two of the five island lots are capable of having a septic system, officials said, limiting the value of the three other lots to “campsites.”

Laski attended the Land Board meeting in June and told Little and the other board members that his family had been good stewards and made efforts to protect the watershed.

Valley County commissioners opposed the auction, citing its accessibility for public use and value to the area’s recreation economy. But the county was unable to put together a financial arrangement to buy the island.

Besides the island parcel, the agency on Wednesday sold one other parcel in the area, but not on the island, for $450,000, $50,000 above its appraised value.

Statewide, the Land Board directs the Idaho Department of Lands in managing about 3,900 square miles (10,100 square kilometers) of state-owned land.

The state manages about 285 square miles (740 square kilometers) around McCall, which includes Cougar Island. About 115 square miles (300 square kilometers) are primarily managed as timberland.

But land values have skyrocketed in recent years, outpacing the value of state-owned timberland in the McCall area, and forcing the Land Board to consider selling the land to fulfill its obligation to generate the most money for beneficiaries. Other state lands are facing similar pressure.