28,000 Acres of Forest Protected in Northwest Montana

The Trust for Public Land and Montana Fish, Wildlife & Parks today announced they bought a conservation easement on 28,000 acres of timber owned by Stimson Lumber Company in the Lower Kootenai River valley, which means the land will be permanently protected for recreation and will also continue to support local timber jobs.

The conservation easement cost $12.8 million and was purchased by The Trust for Public Land and then sold to Montana Fish, Wildlife & Parks. A conservation easement means the land will continue to be owned by Stimson, but cannot be sold for subdivisions.

“This is a win-win for everyone,” said Alex Diekmann of The Trust for Public Land. “This means almost 44 square miles of prime fishing and hunting grounds will be forever accessible to Montana sportsmen. It also guarantees the land will remain part of the sustainable timber economy of this area in northwestern Montana.”

The conservation easement covers a number of pieces of land stretching from the south end of Bull Lake, north through the Lake Creek drainage to Troy, and then northwest along both sides of the Kootenai River to the Idaho border.

This project is widely supported by local sportsmen, wildlife groups, and recreational users. Recreation is a major part of the local economy, and the healthy numbers of elk and trout make it a popular destination for hunters and anglers. Other recreational uses include hiking, mountain biking, camping, skiing, snowmobiling, wildlife viewing, and horseback riding.

“Stimson Lumber is very pleased to complete this conservation easement. This easement assures continuation of working forests into the future while also providing special consideration for wildlife. We look forward to continued partnership with The Trust for Public Land, Montana Fish, Wildlife & Parks, and the residents of Troy and Libby,” said Ray Jones, vice president of resources for Stimson Lumber Company.

“This is a great example of private groups and agencies working together for the benefit of Montana’s wildlife and outdoor recreation enthusiasts,” said Jim Williams, Regional Wildlife Manager for Montana Fish, Wildlife & Parks. “Thanks to the support from our federal funding partners, Stimson Lumber Company and the Troy community, these 28,000 acres will remain a treasured recreational resource for generations of hunters to come.”

Money to pay for the easement came from a variety of sources, including two federal funds—the U.S. Forest Service’s Forest Legacy Program and the U.S. Fish & Wildlife Service’s Habitat Conservation Plan Land Acquisition (HCP) grant program; the Montana Fish & Wildlife Conservation Trust, and a donation of land value from Stimson Lumber Company.

The federal Forest Legacy Program provides matching grants to states to protect important and threatened forests. It is funded by the Land and Water Conservation Fund (LWCF),which is financed by federal revenues from energy companies drilling for oil and gas in public waters offshore. The HCP grant program helps to reduce potential for conflicts between species conservation and other land uses.

Montana’s U.S. senators both have played key leadership roles in sustaining LWCF and the Forest Legacy Program to conserve vital lands across the country, throughout Montana, and here at Lake Creek. Sen. Max Baucus has a long track record of fighting to fully fund LWCF, and earlier this year he successfully added an amendment to the Senate’s Farm Bill to provide resources to support cooperative forestry programs such as the Forest Legacy Program. Sen. Jon Tester, a senior member of the Appropriations Committee, has been similarly effective in advocating for the federal funds on which these special places rely.

“This is a victory for Montana timber jobs and sportsmen that will pay dividends in the long haul. Our outdoor heritage is part of who we are as Montanans and it’s a big economic driver. I’m proud to see the teamwork that’s gone into this conservation easement—it’s something our kids and grandkids will enjoy for generations to come,” said Sen. Baucus.

“Expanding access for Montana hunters and anglers while creating timber jobs and safeguarding one of Montana’s most treasured places is smart policy that deserves our support,” said Sen. Tester. “I appreciate The Trust for Public Land bringing folks together to strengthen northwest Montana’s economy and ensure responsible access for sportsmen and women.”

The project area is also the largest block of privately-owned land in the Cabinet-Yaak Recovery Area, only one of six USFWS-designated grizzly bear recovery zones in the lower 48 states where the species is listed as “endangered”.

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.