23,000 Acres Protected in St. Joe Basin (ID)

ST. MARIES, Idaho, 10/6/04 – The Trust For Public Land (TPL) today announced that more than 23,000 acres of land have been protected and a 107-acre old growth timber grove has been preserved in Idaho’s scenic St. Joe River Basin as part of a continuing partnership between TPL, Potlatch Corporation, and the Idaho Department of Lands.The partnership ultimately plans to protect 80,000 acres through Working Forest Easement agreements. Under the agreement, TPL bought Potlatch’s rights to develop or subdivide the 23,154 acres, while the company maintains ownership and continues managing and harvesting timber. The easement, which also assures permanent access for the thousands of hunters, fisherman, hikers and campers who use the area annually, was conveyed to the Idaho Department of Lands. The easement is binding on Potlatch and all future owners of the land.

Idaho Gov. Dirk Kempthorne praised the announcement and said, “I am proud to lead the effort to bring the Forest Legacy program to Idaho and I am committed to seeing the St. Joe project to completion. We have an opportunity with these working forest easements to provide permanent access to places where people hunt and fish, while at the same time insuring a viable timber economy. However, we should not forget that for this initiative to succeed, we will need the financial support of private donors.”

Sen. Larry Craig, R-Idaho, also supported the announcement. “Like most Idahoans, I strongly believe that we can simultaneously protect the timber economy and the environment. I have worked hard for this Forest Legacy project because it does just that – protects our economy and also our forests and our streams.”

Nelson Mathews, TPL’s Northwest Program manager, said the plan “balances the goals of preserving clean water, protecting the right of Potlatch to manage and harvest timber using sustainable practices, and provides recreation and public access.”

The agreement establishes standards for timber harvests along some of the tributaries of the St. Joe, which is an important water source for Coeur d’Alene Lake, and the Spokane River. Under the agreement, Potlatch will employ riparian area management practices that conserve and enhance wildlife habitat and maintain habitat connectivity within forested landscapes throughout the 23,000-acre conservation easement area.

Potlatch will also preserve forever a 107-acre old growth stand in the West Fork of Mica Creek. It includes cedar, grand fir and spruce trees, some more than 300 years old.

Mathews noted that more private financial support is necessary to complete the 80,000-acre effort. “In the first phase in 2003, we finalized easements on 2,700 acres of Potlatch land and now we have added 23,154 more acres. We are working to put together a campaign to raise the private money which is required to match the federal Forest Legacy money to acquire the remaining 50,000+ acres of St. Joe basin easements from Potlatch. The support of Potlatch and the existence of the federal program means that for every dollar a donor gives, $4 worth of land will be protected. We need the support of people who know and love this great resource.”

Almost $3.5 million, or 75 percent of the total cost of $4.4 million for TPL’s acquisition of Potlatch’s development rights were provided by the federal Forest Legacy program, which provides money to states to buy easements. The rest of the money came through the support of individuals, foundations, and companies, including an in-kind land value donation by Potlatch of more than $500,000.

“Thanks to the far sighted leadership in our Governor and Congressional Delegation, an additional 23,000 acres in the beautiful St. Joe River basin will be preserved from development, kept open for public access and managed sustainability in perpetuity,” said John Olson, vice president for Potlatch’s Resource Management Division. Potlatch is committed to completing the remaining 50,000 + acres in this 80,000-acre conservation effort, which he said meets Potlatch’s goals of ensuring forest management and local log supplies as well as the publics desire for forest recreation, wildlife habitat and water quality.

The Trust for Public Land, established in 1972, specializes in conservation real estate, applying its expertise in negotiations, public finance, and law to protect land for people to enjoy as parks, greenways, community gardens, urban playgrounds, and wilderness. TPL depends upon on the support of individuals, foundations, and corporations. TPL has helped to protect more than 1.9 million acres across the country. For more information, visit TPL on the web at www.tpl.org.