Haskill Basin Conservation Easement Completed
The Trust for Public Land, City of Whitefish, F.H. Stoltze Land & Lumber, and Montana Fish, Wildlife & Parks today announced that they have recorded a conservation easement on 3,020 acres owned by F.H. Stoltze Land & Lumber Company in the Haskill Creek watershed east of Whitefish. Closing this deal means that the land will be permanently protected to support local timber jobs and important fish and wildlife habitat, while also providing the City of Whitefish with the majority of their water supply and the public with continued opportunities for close-to-home outdoor recreation.
The conservation easement cost $16.7 million and was conveyed by The Trust for Public Land to Montana Fish, Wildlife & Parks and the City of Whitefish. The easement means the land will continue to be owned and managed by Stoltze, and will never be converted to other residential or commercial uses in the future.
“This is truly a remarkable achievement and a win-win for everyone,” said Dick Dolan of The Trust for Public Land. “Almost 5 square miles of beautiful forestland will be preserved forever in the backyard of Whitefish, and remain part of the vital local timber economy. It is a perfect fit for our ‘Land for People’ mission, and we were proud to secure generous support for the project from the Wilburforce Foundation, Cinnabar Foundation, and several other local individuals.”
“F. H. Stoltze Land & Lumber Company has long wanted to formalize an agreement with the City of Whitefish to protect the municipal watershed, intakes, and water system located on their private forest lands. The Haskill Basin conservation easement was the perfect tool to accomplish this project,” said Chuck Roady, Vice President and General Manager of Stoltze. “The Stoltze family will still retain the ownership of the land and the management of their timberlands, while providing permanent recreational access, water for the City of Whitefish, and a continuous supply of wood to their local milling facility.”
"After nearly five years of hard work and perseverance, I am just thrilled to see this monumental project close,” said John Muhlfeld, Whitefish City Mayor. ”I owe a debt of gratitude to the good folks in Whitefish who realized the historic significance and importance of this project by overwhelmingly voting to approve 7.7 million dollars in local funding. It is a legacy project that will give back to the Whitefish community for generations to come."
“This is a great example of industry, conservation and government organizations working together for the benefit of Montana’s wildlife and outdoor recreation enthusiasts,” said Alan Wood, Science Program Manager, with Montana Fish, Wildlife & Parks. “Thanks to the support from our federal funding partners, Stoltze and the City of Whitefish, these lands will remain a valuable part of the local economy, a home for fish and wildlife, and a treasured recreational resource for generations to come.”
The $16.7 million necessary to pay for the easement came from a variety of sources, including the City of Whitefish and two federal programs – the U.S. Forest Service’s Forest Legacy Program and the U.S. Fish & Wildlife Service’s Habitat Conservation Plan Land Acquisition Program. F.H. Stoltze Land & Lumber Company also generously agreed to sell the conservation easement at a significant discount below the appraised value.
The 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 Fish and Wildlife Service Habitat Conservation Plan Land Acquisition Program helps to reduce potential for conflicts between species conservation and other land uses and is also funded by the Land and Water Conservation Fund.
Montana’s Congressional delegation has consistently and unanimously provided essential support for federal funding for this project and other important conservation work in the Whitefish area. Senators Jon Tester and Steve Daines, both members of the subcommittee overseeing natural resource appropriations, successfully advocated in Congress and with the Administration to maximize LWCF funds for the easement. Congressman Ryan Zinke, a Whitefish native elected to Congress after Haskill Basin was funded, has joined his colleagues in supporting federal conservation spending here and elsewhere.
“Haskill Basin has been a treasured landscape for Whitefish,” said Heidi Van Everen, Executive Director of Whitefish Legacy Partners. “The area provides a wonderful connection to the special places worth protecting surrounding Whitefish and ensures important habitat, municipal water supply, and viewsheds will remain unchanged for future generations. Permanently protecting these lands will provide the Whitefish community a new gateway to recreation.”