Plum Creek Land Purchase Preserves, Jobs, Habitat, Access (MT)

MISSOULA, Montana, 2/17/2009: The Nature Conservancy and The Trust for Public Land announced today the purchase of another 111,740 acres of western Montana forestland from Plum Creek for $250 million.

Funds for the acquisition were obtained through a provision within the 2008 Farm bill created by Senator Max Baucus.

The land purchased as part of the Montana Legacy Project consists of a series of Plum Creek in holdings that were interspersed in a checkerboard pattern with U.S. Forest Service tracts. The land will eventually be conveyed to the Forest Service, which will consolidate public ownership and improve the Forest Service’s ability to manage the land for fire, timber and multiple-use by the public.

“I am really pleased to support this landmark conservation effort that will benefit Montana’s environment, our working forests and our local communities,” said Senator Max Baucus. “It is also serving as a model for other places in the nation that want to conserve their forests in the face of huge pressures to convert them to other uses.”

The goals of the purchase are to assure public access to the land for hunting, fishing, hiking and other recreational pursuits is preserved, continue sustainable timber harvest for the benefit of local communities, as well as conserve vital fish and wildlife habitat and water resources.

“We’re all enormously thankful for the enduring work of Senator Max Baucus in making this project possible. It has enabled us to pursue a vision that benefits all Montanans – from those who earn their livings in the forest, to those who hunt, ride, hike or simply take in the remarkable scenery. It’s a gift to us now and for future generations,” said Kat Imhoff, State Director of The Nature Conservancy in Montana.

The land is located in several valleys including the Swan, Clearwater, Lolo and Rock Creek. It encompasses habitat for wide-ranging big game animals, bull trout and numerous other wildlife and are some of the most popular recreation areas in the western United States.

“Purchase of these lands will effectively eliminate the railroad-era checkerboard ownership pattern in places like the Swan Valley, which is truly the crown jewel of Montana’s wild, working lands,” says Deb Love, Director of the Northern Rockies Program of The Trust for Public Land. “Consolidation benefits people, animals, and timber operations alike.”

“Plum Creek has a strong history of conservation and is pleased to partner in the sale of this important land to accommodate the public interest in its ecological, recreational and timber production values,” said Rick Holley, president and chief executive officer for Plum Creek. “With this sale, we are proud that the company has placed more than 860,000 acres of land in the country, including more than 600,000 acres in Montana, into permanent conservation.”

This purchase is part of a 310,000 acre acquisition of Plum Creek land by the two conservation groups, who will retain ownership temporarily until the land is conveyed to federal, state, and private conservation buyers. The two conservation groups will acquire the properties in several phases, with the final close in December 2010. The remainder of funding for the $490 million overall purchase is also being sought from private sources and the State of Montana.

For more information about the Montana Legacy Project go to:

The Trust for Public Land is a leading national non-profit land conservation organization dedicated to conserving land for people. TPL believes that connecting people to the land is key to creating livable communities and a healthy environment for generations to come. Since 1972, TPL has worked with willing landowners, community groups and public partners to protect nearly 2.3 million acres around the country.

The Nature Conservancy is a leading conservation organization working around the world to protect ecologically important lands and waters for nature and people. To date, the Conservancy and its more than one million members have been responsible for the protection of more than 18 million acres in the United States and have helped preserve more than 117 million acres in Latin America, the Caribbean, Asia and the Pacific.