No new bids for McCall’s Cougar Island in state land auction


A photo from the Corbett Bottles auction catalog shows Cougar Island. The island was up for auction Wednesday, Sept. 14, 2022. The only bid was made on the parcel containing the home pictured here. The current lessee, Jim Laski, purchased the parcel and home.

Corbett Bottles

A much-anticipated auction for a state-owned island in Payette Lake attracted a single bidder, who offered to buy only one parcel.

The Idaho Department of Lands offered five parcels on Cougar Island for sale during Wednesday’s auction, with the option for bidders to bid on the entire island at a starting bid of $10.3 million.

The only bid was on the parcel of Cougar Island that includes a 3-bedroom, 3.5-bathroom home. The bidder, Jim Laski, currently leases the land from the department. Laski paid just over $2 million for the home and 2.5 acres, the department said in a news release.

Cougar Island is the largest in Payette Lake at just over 14 acres, part of the department’s endowment lands. Revenue from leases on auctions of state-managed endowment lands goes to Idaho public schools.

The planned auction received pushback from conservation groups who hoped to conserve the island as public land and wildlife habitat. The Payette Land Trust outlined plans to participate in the auction on its website, while United Payette told BoiseDev it also hoped to bid. Neither group ended up bidding.

Local officials also expressed concern about how the auction could affect wildlife or water quality. In June, the Department of Lands’ board of commissioners, which includes Gov. Brad Little, Attorney General Lawrence Wasden and department head Dustin Miller, declined the Valley County Commission’s request to postpone the Cougar Island auction. The McCall Star-News reported that the commission hoped to raise money to purchase the island.

The McCall City Council in August voted to make Cougar Island an “area of critical concern,” BoiseDev reported. That designation would mean potential developers would need environmental review before any development could occur on the island.

In the news release, the Department of Lands said it would “evaluate the next step for the other parcels on the island.”

“The goal remains maximizing the return on behalf of the endowment beneficiary,” officials said.

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Nicole Blanchard is part of the Idaho Statesman’s investigative and watchdog reporting teams. She also covers Idaho Outdoors and frequents the trails around Idaho. Nicole grew up in Idaho, graduated from Idaho State University and Northwestern University with a master’s degree in journalism.
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