Land Board Votes Cougar Island Auction at Payette Lake Over County Objections |

BOISE — The Idaho State Land Board voted unanimously on Tuesday to proceed with an auction of Cougar Island in the middle of Lake Payette, despite objections from Valley County Commissioners, who have said they would like to explore ways to raise funds for a public purchase of the iconic island to protect its recreational and landscape values ​​and the water quality of the lake.

“It is extremely difficult for public entities to participate in the auction process,” Commissioner Sherry Maupin told the Land Board, which is chaired by Governor Brad Little and also includes the Attorney General, Secretary of State, State Comptroller and State Superintendent of the Public. instruction. “Cougar Island is a historic gem in Valley County,” she said, long available for public access and recreation.

Maupin said the region’s economy was based on tourism and recreation, and pleaded with the council to find a way to achieve its two goals – maximum long-term returns for the state endowment, including the biggest beneficiary is the state’s public schools, as required by Idaho. Constitution – and the goals of the local community, including the preservation and enhancement of its environment and economy.

A letter to the Land Board signed by the three county commissioners said, “The sale of these beloved lands – valued by generations of Idahoans – would be a permanent and irreversible black mark in the decorated history of our state of the conservation of special places so that future generations can share them. same places and experiences. The weight of the island’s loss will not only be borne by those of us fortunate enough to be elected leaders, but by all future generations of Idahoans.

The Land Board first voted in 2018 to auction Cougar Island. The State Lands Department has divided the island into five lots, one of which is currently leased to a lake house owner. That tenant, Jim Laski of Bellevue, has repeatedly asked to participate in an auction to buy his land, which the state has encouraged as he tries to get out of the endowment land leasing business. of the State for chalet sites, in search of more profitable investments. In place. The state has already auctioned off 140 of its 168 leased cottage sites on Lake Payette.

Laski told council his family cherished the 10 summers he used the property and were careful to take a light touch, never rent it out, never use fertilizer and never lay lawns or other non-native plantings to preserve the lake. water quality.

Land Board staff told council they plan to auction off all five lots individually, as well as the island as a whole, and even offer the option of two halves. “We would offer it in different ways, and the one that generates the most revenue is the winner,” Josh Purkiss, office manager of real estate services, told the board.

Mark Bottles, a real estate broker whose company has held several public auctions for the state Land Department, said not all five lots were suitable for development or septic systems, and the state could likely earn more. money by selling the whole island to someone. who wants it as exclusively his own.

Laski said he’s paid for multiple appraisals now and filed paperwork multiple times for auctions that didn’t happen; he begged the council to stick to his scheduled auction date of at least July 30 for his lot. He noted that the August 2021 state-led valuation he had paid for, which would expire if the auction did not take place this summer, came in at the top of the values, so the endowment of the State would sell for a high price. When state-owned cottage sites are auctioned, the valuation is the starting bid. Laski also said he was working with United Payette on possible plans for public ownership or conservation of the rest of the island off his land.

But the board voted unanimously, without discussion, to reaffirm its 2018 decision to auction the island, giving department staff the green light to proceed as they see fit; department staff said they are now looking at September for the auction. Afterwards, a disappointed Laski said, “We’ll see what happens. They’ll probably find some rich Californian to buy it.

Betsy Z. Russell is Boise Bureau Chief and State Capital Reporter for Idaho Press and Adams Publishing Group. Follow her on Twitter at @BetsyZRussell.

Lynn A. Saleh