Idaho Land Board forms subcommittee to analyze land dealings
BOISE, Idaho (AP) — Gov. Brad Little, Attorney General Lawrence Wasden and a financial expert will examine how the Idaho Land Board should invest $240 million from the sale of hundreds of residential home sites as well as commercial real estate properties.
Irving Littman, a retired vice president and treasurer at Boise Cascade, was named the third member of the committee. Boise Cascade sells wood products and lumber nationally.
Another financial adviser has already told the Land Board to use the money to buy timberland and farmland. But at least one timber company, concerned about competition from the state and some counties worried about losing property tax income, have voiced concerns about that idea.
“Because of the magnitude of it — a quarter billion dollars — I just want to make darn sure we’re doing the right thing,” the Republican governor said after the Idaho Land Board meeting. “A quarter billion dollars moves the needle in a lot of areas as far as taking land off the tax rolls.”
Idaho received 5,600 square miles (14,500 square kilometers) of endowment land at statehood in 1890. Over the years, it has sold about 33%t and now has about 3,800 square miles (9,800 square kilometers).
The Land Board manages that remaining land to make money mainly for public schools, mostly through timber sales. The Land Board is constitutionally mandated to get the greatest return.
Wasden after the meeting cited that mandate and noted he’s been asked why the Land Board needs to operate in the marketplace.
“My answer is: Where do you do that?” he said. “It’s a very specific command to us, and I think having a sound understanding of what that constitutional principal is will be very beneficial to us.”
The state also has investments that fluctuate with the stock market, and experts say the state investing in land is a way to moderate fluctuations in its overall portfolio due to potential volatility in the stock market.
Idaho has been selling hundreds of residential home sites as it gets out of the business of leasing that land. The Land Board has also sold commercial real estate it managed after complaints that state-owned businesses unfairly compete with private businesses.
About $200 million has been generated from those sales so far, with another $40 million, plus interest, expected in the next several years.
About $50 million has been used to buy timberland and create access to existing state endowment lands, officials said.