Nearly 200,000 Acres in Northwest Montana Available for Permanent Conservation
The Trust for Public Land, in partnership with Southern Pine Plantations, doing business as SPP Montana (SPP), today announced the opportunity to permanently protect nearly 200,000 acres in Northwest Montana through “working forest” conservation easements. The property available for conservation would stitch together 317,000 acres of conservation work completed over the last 20 years that protects important working timberland from Glacier National Park through the Cabinet Mountains Wilderness to the Selkirk and Coeur d’Alene mountains in the Idaho panhandle. The proposed conservation easement would preclude development, ensure sustainable timber management, maintain wood-product jobs, protect incredible wildlife habitat and landscape connectivity, and provide permanent public access to extraordinary recreation lands.
“The opportunity to protect this property completes the connectivity of previous conservation efforts and would ensure permanent public access to a highly used recreational corridor. It is truly a once-in-a-lifetime opportunity,” said The Trust for Public Land’s Northern Rockies Director, Dick Dolan “The framework is in place but we and our partners and donors need to act quickly to ensure we are successful. Forests and mountains like these are the lifeblood of Montana and a vital part of making our state a great place to live, work, and play. We also have the opportunity to protect Montana’s forestry heritage by ensuring the state’s timber industry can continue sustainably for generations to come. We are grateful to SPP and our government partners in working together towards this goal.”
SPP Montana (SPP) purchased the property from Weyerhaeuser in early 2020. After a large-scale campaign to see if these lands can be protected, led by the public, the State and Montana’s elected officials, SPP has agreed to work with TPL to place a conservation easement on the land if funds are secured quickly. If a conservation easement is secured on the property it will be protected from future development while remaining in private hands so its timber can be actively managed for the long-term. The public will also be provided permanent access the property for recreation.
“We recognize that a viable timber industry and outdoor recreational access are both important to the people of Montana. If a conservation easement can be secured on these lands, it will provide a long‐term solution toward preserving both. We look forward to working with the federal, state and non‐profit partners to reach this goal,” said Pat Patton, the Manager for SPP Montana.
For residents of Northwest Montana this land has been a recreation backyard, and is instrumental to quality of life for residents who have enjoyed hunting, fishing, hiking, camping and all sorts of recreational pursuits on the property for generations. It also provides a critical East/West protected wildlife corridor, while most previous conservation in the region has allowed for North to South Travel, rounding out a connected fabric of conservation in this portion of the Northern Rockies.
Lincoln County Commissioner Mark Peck added, “The announcement of the sale of Weyerhaeuser’s Montana lands was a crushing blow to the citizens of Lincoln County and left us wondering what could become of these core recreational lands and our timber-based economy. The willingness of SPP to work with TPL is a win-win solution and a wonderful opportunity for the residents of NW Montana. We understand that timing is of the essence to keep this opportunity alive. We encourage all Montanans who are passionate about the future of this land to reach out to your elected officials and let them know you support this effort. We wish to thank SPP and the TPL folks for working to continue a tradition of timber and recreational access that has existed for over 100 years.”
The Trust for Public Land is working closely with state and federal government agencies to secure long-term conservation solutions for these lands. As envisioned, Montana Fish, Wildlife, and Parks would hold conservation easements on the chain of lakes lands. If the proposed Lost Trail Conservation Area is approved, the United States Fish and Wildlife Service could hold easements on the lands surrounding the existing Wildlife Refuge. Together these easements would protect vital public recreation and natural resources while maintaining important traditional economic activity.
Private philanthropy will be a critical part of fundraising to protect this landscape. There is a critical window to raise these private funds and The Trust for Public Land will be working with individuals and foundations to meet this need.
“Montana is blessed with an amazing intact landscape, abundant wildlife, and an active private timber base which Forest Legacy Projects like this make possible,” said Rick Northrup, Montana Fish, Wildlife, and Parks, Montana Forest Legacy Program Coordinator, “The success of our previous projects are thanks to the partnerships between the landowners, the non-profit partners, and the state and federal agencies. This is an extraordinary proposal, and we look forward to working on this with them.”
David Allen, Acting Deputy Chief, Division of Realty for the US Fish and Wildlife Service, added, “It is truly unique to have one landowner who surrounds a National Wildlife Refuge. SPP’s support of the proposed conservation area and willingness to protect and expand conserved land around the refuge would not only ensure this amazing landscape remains intact, but it would also ensure public access to an amazing recreational resource for Montana. This project has a lot of exciting potential and we look forward to working with SPP as it develops.”
Jim Williams, Region One Supervisor for Montana Fish, Wildlife & Parks added, “FWP is excited to be a partner in this effort to secure a resilient, connected, working landscape that would provide benefits to the timber industry, wildlife habitat and public recreation access in perpetuity. Thank you to SPP and TPL for allowing us an opportunity to help see this come to fruition.”
About The Trust for Public Land
The Trust for Public Land creates parks and protects land for people, ensuring healthy, livable communities for generations to come. Millions of people live within a 10-minute walk of a Trust for Public Land park, garden or natural area, and millions more visit these sites every year. To support The Trust for Public Land and share why nature matters to you, visit www.tpl.org.