Agreement Could Protect More Than 3,000 Acres Near Whitefish
More than 3,000 acres of working forestlands in Haskill Basin near the City of Whitefish would be permanently protected under a plan announced today by The Trust for Public Land and the F.H. Stoltze Land & Lumber Company—Montana's oldest family-owned lumber company. The property is the source of 75 percent of the city's municipal water supply and is actively used by the local community for hunting, hiking, mountain biking, horseback riding and other outdoor recreational pursuits.
The land is located immediately next to the Whitefish Mountain Resort and the exclusive Iron Horse golf course community, and is considered extremely vulnerable to future development.
The Trust for Public Land has secured an option to purchase the development rights from F.H. Stoltze Land & Lumber Company through the end of 2015. This would guarantee that the land is permanently protected for the benefit of water, wildlife, and recreation, while still allowing sustainable forest management activities to continue.
Funding is needed to permanently protect Haskill Basin. The Trust for Public Land will be raising money from private donors and various public funding sources to make the protection of this beloved resource possible.
"This project has it all," said The Trust for Public Land project manager, Alex Diekmann. "Not only do we have an opportunity to protect incredibly high scenic, wildlife, timber, and public access values, but we also have the ability to protect the City of Whitefish's main water supply. I can't think of a better win-win situation for everyone involved."
"We are extremely pleased that we finally have an opportunity to put together a plan that will protect the city's drinking water supply and allow us to continue supporting the local economy through our sustainable forest management operations," said Stoltze's General Manager, Chuck Roady. "Finding a mutually agreeable solution that supports our business and our dedicated employees but also provides long-term wildlife, public access and watershed protection benefits has been a high priority for the Stoltze family and our management team for many years."
The conservation easement would be conveyed to Montana Fish, Wildlife and Parks for long-term monitoring and enforcement.
This project is strongly supported by Whitefish City Mayor John Muhlfeld.
"This is very exciting news," said Mayor Muhlfeld. "Stoltze has always been an incredibly generous member of the local community, opening its lands for respectful public use and managing them in a way that preserves the quality of our water in Haskill Basin. This agreement will guarantee perpetual public access for a wide range of recreational opportunities and ensure that our municipal water supply is forever protected from development. I can't think of a better legacy to leave for our community."
U.S. Senator Max Baucus (D-MT), a longtime champion of collaborative conservation projects in Montana, said he will be looking for opportunities to move the ball forward at the federal level.
"Promoting our outdoor heritage supports jobs and ensures that our kids and grandkids can enjoy the places that make our state so special. This project will protect our outdoor heritage, support timber access and protect the water supply families and businesses rely upon in Whitefish. I look forward to working with Stoltze, The Trust for Public Land, and partners at every level to support this made-in-Montana conservation project," said Sen. Baucus.
U.S. Senator Jon Tester (D-MT), another consistent advocate for key conservation initiatives in Montana added, "Passing on Montana's outdoor traditions to future generations depends on preserving our treasured lands while maintaining public access," U.S. Senator Jon Tester said. "F.H. Stoltze is a leader in smart resource management, and this partnership will make sure that Montanans can enjoy an important part of the Flathead for years to come."
Founded in 1972, The Trust for Public Land is the leading nonprofit working to conserve land for people. Operating from more than 30 offices nationwide, The Trust for Public Land has protected more than three million acres from the inner city to the wilderness and helped generate more than $34 billion in public funds for conservation. Nearly ten million people live within a ten-minute walk of a Trust for Public Land park, garden, or natural area, and millions more visit these sites every year.