State Ditches Plan For Priest Lake Land Exchanges

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The State of Idaho has dropped plans for a land exchange program that would give land ownership to up to a fifth of renters around several lakes in the state, the Spokesman-Review reports.

Idaho's land board had developed the exchanges to alleviate tension between the state and cabin owners, some of whom have been renting their parcels from the state for years. In some cases, these tensions resulted in lawsuits by renters angry about lease and rent rates, prompting the state to get out of the business of renting land to cabin owners.

Specifically, the exchange would have traded 48 cabins on Priest Lake and 10 on Payette Lake for three buildings in Idaho Falls and 11 cabin land parcels on Payette Lake for an office building in Nampa.

But Nov. 12, Department of Lands Director Tom Schultz said that his department had halted the land exchanges. 

In October, legal questions were raised about a clause of state law that allows the land board to make exchanges "for similar lands of equal value, public or private." Schultz told the Spokesman-Review that that first phrase, "similar lands," has been read as pertaining to "like" uses: Mining land must be changed for mining land, timber land for timber land, etc. 

Schultz said his department will need more time to evaluate legal options and resolve the law with a clause in the Idaho Constitution that allows the legislature to exchange state land on an "equal value basis."