2,710 Acres Protected in St. Joe River Valley (ID)
Spokane, WA 9/30/03 – Potlatch Corporation and the Trust for Public Land (TPL) today announced completion of the first phase of a conservation easement agreement that will forever secure public access, wildlife habitat and sustainable forest management on 2,710 acres of northern Idaho’s scenic St. Joe River Valley.
The agreement finalized this week permanently transfers Potlatch’s development rights to the land and assigns access opportunities to the public. The combined value of rights transferred to the Idaho Department of Lands (IDL) is about $600,000. Potlatch will continue to own and manage the land for timber, using third-party certified sustainable practices that meet the nation’s highest stewardship standards.
Located in the Mica Creek drainage of the St. Joe River, the Potlatch lands are the first to be protected under what could become the state’s largest conservation easement. The next phase of the project, comprising 2,400 acres of Potlatch forestland, should be completed by June 2004.
Purchase of the development rights was coordinated by TPL, with funding secured from private conservation fund contributions, a Potlatch donation and the Forest Legacy Program. The Forest Legacy Program, managed by the U.S. Forest Service, is a federally mandated and funded program whose primary focus is maintaining forestlands in traditional forest uses, including timber production on private lands, as well as fish and wildlife habitat conservation. In Idaho, the U.S. Forest Service and IDL administer the program.
The Potlatch project is the first of a multi-phased major initiative to protect Idaho’s important forestlands as part of Idaho’s Forest Legacy Program, which was previously announced by Governor Dirk Kempthorne. “This is an exciting opportunity to take care of the land and sustain the local economy. This project is in the best interest for the fish and wildlife while assuring public access and timber based jobs,” said Governor Kempthorne. “This is just the sort of collaborative, private-public partnership that we envisioned when Idaho enrolled in the Forest Legacy Program. I applaud Potlatch, TPL and IDL for developing such an innovative approach to protecting these special places.”
“This project represents one of the most significant achievements for assuring public access to private and state lands as well as a commitment to long-term forest stewardship,” said Ron Litz of IDL. “IDL is pleased to be involved in this Legacy project, providing assurance of consistent management with the surrounding state-owned forests as well as a tremendous legacy for future Idahoans.”
Public access, habitat protection and maintaining a sustainable timber harvest are all important provisions of the easement, according to TPL. Lands in the Potlatch project area are a popular hunting and fishing destination and provide habitat and winter range for St. Joe River Basin deer and elk herds. Many other species will also benefit: moose, various furbearers, bald eagles, numerous bird species and a tremendous fishery that includes populations of cutthroat trout and rainbow trout.
“I am happy to support this project because of its significant public support at the local level,” said Sen. Larry Craig. “This effort will preserve a unique part of Idaho’s scenic beauty and wildlife habitat, and it will further assure jobs in the local timber economy over the long term. As a long-time advocate for the wood products industry and a member of the Senate Appropriations Committee, I have supported this project and will work hard to complete it.”
“This conservation easement tremendously benefits wildlife and fisheries – it also guarantees public access for recreation,” said Alex Irby, Commissioner with the Idaho Dept. of Fish and Game. “The Potlatch forestland partnership is one of Fish and Game’s priority projects and offers great promise to be this generation’s conservation legacy to Idaho’s future.”
“We are pleased to see the progress toward completing this landmark conservation easement, guaranteeing traditional uses of these lands forever,” said John Olson, Potlatch Vice President of Resource Management. “We look forward to working with all the partners in completing the easement in the coming years. The St. Joe project area includes a total of approximately 84,000 acres. Potlatch expects to convey development rights on the remaining acreage in subsequent easement transfers during the next few years,” Olson noted. Potlatch announced last year that it is considering conveying conservation easements on substantial portions of its Idaho forestlands.
Olson added that third-party certification of Potlatch’s forestland improves opportunities for conservation easements. Potlatch’s 1.5 million acres of forestlands in the U.S. are third-party certified under the 2002-2004 standards of the Sustainable Forestry Initiative (SFI SM) and an Environmental Management System that meets requirements of the International Organization for Standardization (ISO).
Among the state’s fastest growing areas, Northern Idaho counties face continuing development pressures that threaten to change the rural character and quality of life. “This is a critical project in an area where private forest land is being converted for development – resulting in significant habitat loss, reduced access to timber resources and oftentimes a hazardous wildfire exposure due to reduced management options. TPL is pleased to be working with the State of Idaho, Potlatch and the many local supporters to make this conservation legacy a reality. Future generations will be thankful for the foresight and efforts of local citizens and political leaders to protect these lands,” added David Genter of the Trust for Public Land.
The project has broad community support, especially among sportsmen and recreationists. “Through the years there have certainly been many contentious discussions over resource and land issues in northern Idaho. This project is one of the few where I have seen a diverse group of people line up and support something that is in all of our best interest,” said Jim Riley, President of the Intermountain Forest Association.
The Trust for Public Land, a national nonprofit organization, conserves land for people to enjoy as parks, gardens and other natural places, ensuring livable communities for generations to come. Since 1972, TPL has protected more than 1.5 million acres nationwide with a value of more than $2 billion. TPL depends on the support of individuals, foundations and businesses to achieve our land for people mission.
This news release contains, in addition to historical information, certain forward-looking statements by Potlatch’s management. These forward-looking statements are based on Potlatch management’s best estimates and assumptions regarding future events, and are therefore subject to known and unknown risks and uncertainties and are not guarantees of future performance. The company’s actual results could differ materially from those expressed or implied by forward-looking statements. The company disclaims any intent or obligation to update these forward-looking statements.