Land Conservation Solutions
Many viable and proven solutions are available for the conservation of the McCall Area endowment lands, which could be funded through a combination of private and public revenue sources. It is important to find solutions that will generate income for the endowment fund while preserving public access to the lands, continued management by state agencies, and meeting the public interest to protect the water, wildlife habitat, and the overall ecosystem.
To solicit input and ideas from the local community, PELA sent out a request [in September 2020] through its email distribution list and through social media by way of the Preserve McCall – Say No to Trident Holdings Facebook page. These requests reached more than 2,200 people, and PELA received many responses to its request.
Possible solutions to protect and preserve the McCall area endowment lands include conservation leases and easements, transfers of land to the Ponderosa State Park, establishment of a Valley County recreation district, and a potential inclusion in the National Water Trails System. It should be noted that the Idaho Department of Lands has a conservation leasing program in place that includes 22 conservation leases covering several thousand acres. Any new conservation lease or easement would provide additional revenue over what is generated today as IDL would continue to manage these lands in much the same manner with revenues for timber harvest, grazing, mineral recovery continuing. Revenues to implement endowment land leases, easements, or purchases could include a combination of private and public funds. Private sources may include private donations and foundation conservation grants, and public sources could include a proposition-based conservation levy, a local excise tax, recreation and conservation licenses, and land user fees.
Several of these solutions have been successfully applied in the state of Idaho as well as nationally to conserve vast tracts of lands that were ripe for public harvest like the McCall area endowment lands. It is important to look at what has worked in the past. Two successful land conservation efforts are presented here.
Case Study - Blaine County, Idaho
In November 2008, the voters of Blaine County, Idaho, approved Proposition 1, the Land, Water and Wildlife Levy, establishing a two-year levy to protect natural resources and the quality of life valued by area residents. The ballot language for this levy included a requirement for a Land Advisory Board made up of local citizens to advise the County Commissioners on conservation, proposals, and proper investment of the levy proceeds. The purpose of Advisory Board was/is to recommend to the commissioners the best use of the funds to achieve optimal conservation value and public benefits as well as a standardized and transparent process for the consideration for eligible expenditures. The Land Advisory Board is composed of nine board members who are local citizens from various backgrounds and professions, including city and county planners, forestry workers, architects, landscape architects, an attorney, and small business owners. The Land Advisor Board advises the Blaine County Board of Commissioners on conservation proposals and proper investment of the levy proceeds.
To date the Land, Water and Wildlife Program has successfully put in place five major conservation easements, one large land acquisition, and three land and water restoration projects. Funding for these projects, including easements, has encompassed a combination of public funding from the levy and private donations from individuals and conservation groups. The conservation easements combined equal several thousand acres. More information on this, including the conservation leases, can be found on the Blaine County Idaho website land, Water and Wildlife Program. https://www.co.blaine.id.us/219/Land-Water-Wildlife-Program
Case Study - San Juan County, Washington
A visitor hiking around the San Juan Islands will notice ample evidence of the San Juan County Land Bank (“Land Bank”) through signs marking the lands it has been protecting and acquiring for several decades. The Land Bank describes its origins as follows on its website: “Throughout the 1980s, land development and tourism were on the rise, and the county’s population was rapidly growing. Facing the loss of places they loved, a diverse group of locals sought a way to save treasured lands and maintain quality of life. Their vision led to the creation of the San Juan County Conservation Land Bank. In 1990, San Juan County voters approved funding for the Land Bank through a one-time 1% real estate excise tax paid by purchasers of property at closing.”
The mandate of this organization is “to preserve in perpetuity areas in the county that have environmental, agricultural, aesthetic, cultural, scientific, historic, scenic or low-intensity recreational value and to protect existing and future sources of potable water.”
This Land Bank is run by a seven-citizen, volunteer commission that manages a staff and holds monthly meetings that are open to the public. According to its website, the Land Bank considers the following criteria to decide whether to pursue a particular project:
The property must provide an important conservation resource,
The property’s identified conservation resource(s) should be vulnerable to adverse change,
The proposed project must adequately protect the identified conservation resource(s) of the property,
The acquisition should make effective use of the Land Bank’s limited funds and resources,
There must be general public support.
More information can be found at: http://sjclandbank.org/