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Here’s an update on the effort to conserve and protect the endowment lands surrounding McCall. 


We are sure you have heard the recent rumblings about Bill HB587 sponsored by Representative Terry Gestrin. HB587 was introduced to the Idaho legislature on behalf of Trident, who’s proposal to acquire and develop endowment lands around Payette Lake was soundly rejected by IDL and the Land Board last year. The intent of HB587 was to create a new position within IDL which would change the entire process by which the agency evaluates land leases, sales, and exchanges and was crafted to give preference to land exchanges like Trident’s proposal.


There was an outcry from many regarding this bill, and PELA sent a letter directly to Representative Gestrin. On Thursday morning February 24th, Terry texted us at PELA to say he had pulled this bill from committee at the Idaho Statehouse. 


With the introduction of this bill, Representative Gestrin seems to be oblivious to his constituents' strong feelings about protecting the endowment lands and opposing Trident. (Reference the full page dated July, 2020, which many of you signed). He also seems unaware of all the work being done in the last 9 months by PELA and others in United Payette to secure conservation leases on the endowment lands until a long term solution can be worked out.  


Mr. Gestrin’s deaf ear to his constituents notwithstanding, there has been progress in the effort to conserve the endowment lands. Notably, PELA and United Payette signed a memorandum of understanding with Valley County which enables a task force of PELA and UP members, a county representative, and others who represent diverse recreational interests to negotiate short-term conservation-based solutions with the Idaho Department of Lands. In addition, a local citizens advisory group will be established to help manage any leases UP negotiates for the county.  


UP has drafted lease/land use permit agreements which IDL has been reviewing. Scott Phillips, the Policy and Communications Director for IDL, says about our efforts, “(the) application...really focuses on allowing traditional uses of endowment lands in the McCall area- namely recreation. It would have some prohibitions for that period on things like development and resorts and hotels and the like. It’s really designed to keep the land open for public use.”


In other news, preparations and possible solutions are being explored by UP regarding the likely auction of Cougar Island this spring or summer. Currently, a Cougar Island task force is exploring conservation-based solutions for the island. Parcel G, located on the east side of Payette Lake, near Tamarack Bay Condos, and one of the last public access beaches, may also appear on the IDL auction timeline. 


And let’s not lose sight of the possibility of long range preservation of endowment lands in the McCall area involving an exchange with the U.S. Forest Service. That land exchange is still a viable option being explored, but will take time. 


PELA members have also been working with the Big Payette Lake Water Quality Council assisting in efforts toward preserving water quality in Big Payette Lake. Brochures and informative pamphlets are in the works for homeowners, landscapers and other entities, which provide detailed information about personal actions we can all take to ensure the health of our gem, Payette Lake. PELA hopes to help in the distribution of these educational materials.


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