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Coalition Proposes Conserving Lands Previously Targeted by Developer

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Thursday, September 23, 2021   

MCCALL, Idaho -- After the rejection of a developer's proposed land swap near Payette Lake, a coalition of groups wants the state to do the opposite.

The coalition United Payette submitted a proposal today to conserve more than 5,000 acres of endowment lands near the lake. The plan has support from Valley County, the nearby city of McCall and the Shoshone-Bannock Tribes.

Jonathan Oppenheimer, external relations director of the Idaho Conservation League, said the surrounding community wanted to come up with a better solution than development.

"Together we've been working to develop this plan over the last several months," Oppenheimer explained. "And [we] are hopeful that it will be well received and looking forward to working with the Department of Lands and the Land Board to see the project implemented and ultimately to see the lands around Payette Lake protected as public lands for future generations."

More than 1,200 people have signed a petition supporting the proposal. Trident asked the Idaho Board of Land Commissioners to rescind the Department of Lands' decision and hold a contested case hearing, but the board unanimously rejected their requests this week.

The Department of Lands said Trident undervalued the land around the lake. The agency is constitutionally required to maximize returns on endowment lands, which generate money for public schools and other beneficiaries.

Oppenheimer pointed out many community and regional stakeholders were concerned about the privatization of thousands of acres around Payette Lake.

"Resulting in development along the lakeshore and limiting public access on what are now state endowment lands that have been managed for decades for public use and accessibility to the lake, as well as for timber harvests and for other public purposes," Oppenheimer outlined.

Oppenheimer described what United Payette has in mind for the area.

"We are looking at some elements here that could include conservation and recreation leases on some of these lands, potential conservation easements," Oppenheimer noted.

Trident had paused its lawsuit against the state, pending the outcome of the hearing. It's back on. The developers argue the state overvalued the land, calling their proposals' rejection "capricious" and "arbitrary" or an "abuse of discretion" and alleging bias among a member of the Department of Lands' staff.

Disclosure: Idaho Conservation League contributes to our fund for reporting on Energy Policy, Environment, Public Lands/Wilderness, and Water. If you would like to help support news in the public interest, click here.


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