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Portion of Cougar Island on Payette Lake sold by State of Idaho

One portion of Cougar Island sold at auction, but remaining parcels went unsold.

EAGLE, Idaho — There is a new partial owner of Cougar Island located on Payette Lake near McCall.

The island is visible in a popular spot of the lake, with a family leasing a part of the property. The island is owned by the state, but Idaho is looking to sell the land to maximize financial return.

Wednesday afternoon, an auction was held in Eagle for lots of Cougar Island. People registered to bid on those pieces or the whole island itself, if they choose to.

In June, Idaho officials voted to sell the 14-acre "high-end" island in Payette Lake. Governor Brad Little and four other members of the Idaho Land Board voted 5-0 to confirm a previous decision to sell the island.

The island has five designated lots, with one lot hosting a cabin and a current lessee. But why did Idaho take the land to auction?

The state constitution requires the Land Board to "maximize financial return over the long term", mainly to benefit public schools. State land managers have said, cougar island is underperforming financially, and selling it is in the state's best interest.

Critics of the auction, like Valley County Commissioners, the advocacy group United Payette, and the Idaho Conservation League, pushed for a deal to prevent the island from being privatized. In the end, the island simply went to auction.

Another interesting aspect is the current lease holder of the lot with a cabin was at the auction to try and win the auction, so his family could own the land instead of leasing.

Land Board members had concerns about the timing of selling the property, with real estate sales appearing to fall from an apparent recent peak.

The lone lot that sold went for a little more than $2 million. The winner of the auction on the leased lot is the current lease holder, Mr. Laski. He will have 30 to 60 days to close on the property with a possible 30-day extension.

The other lots that didn’t sell today are different from the lot Laski will own, due to the fact that most of the island isn't conducive to comfortable human living.

Proceeds from the auction go to the State of Idaho, benefiting mainly public schools. The lots that did not sell today are still the state's, and Idaho will have other options on the selling front. The goal, again, is to maximize the return on behalf of the endowment beneficiary.

So, why try to sell now?

The state believed with the hot Idaho market in recent months and years, now was a great time to try and make some money for the state.

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