State officials eye McCall-area land swap amid opposition

An investment firm’s proposal to swap private timberland in northern Idaho for up to 44 square miles of public state land in and around McCall faced opposition Tuesday from local governments, environmental groups and private citizens. Trident Holdings LLC pitched the plan to Republican Gov. Brad Little and four other statewide-elected members of the Idaho Land Board. Little and the other members were non-committal in what was an information-item only on the agenda with no action allowed to be taken by the board.

The Land Board manages nearly 4,000 square miles Idaho received at statehood to benefit mainly public schools. The board is constitutionally mandated to manage that land, as well as market investments, to get the greatest long-term return. The Land Board last fiscal year generated about $85 million for distribution. Most of that revenue comes from timber sales. But state-owned land in and near McCall, which is also a popular area for vacation homes, has skyrocketed in value. That means timber revenue and other uses, such as developing the land, make it possible that the best financial return on that land might be to get rid of it in exchange for some other type of asset.

Alec Williams, Trident’s founder and manager, pitched the plan as a way for the state to fulfill its mission of generating money for endowment land beneficiaries and also sign off on a deal that will preserve public access and recreational opportunities in the McCall area. But there would be some development involved. The board took public comments, but no decision has been made yet. (AP)

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