Lumber Company, Conservation Group Make Land Deal

By Beacon Staff

MISSOULA — A conservation easement between a lumber company and conservation group will protect about 28,000 acres of wildlife habitat in Northwest Montana’s lower Kootenai River valley.

The Missoulian reports that Stimson Lumber Co. sold the land Wednesday as a conservation easement to the Trust for Public Land, with the land to be managed by Montana Fish, Wildlife and Parks.

“This is a real win-win for wildlife, recreating sportsmen and the local economy through timber jobs,” said Alex Diekmann, of the Trust for Public Land. “These lands could have fallen to a much different fate just as we’ve seen with other lands becoming subdivided under private ownership. This easement memorializes everything into perpetuity.”

The $12.8 million project means the land will have public access, can still be logged but can’t be sold privately for subdivisions. Diekmann said the land will remain a working forest with a high standard for species conservation.

“This is a good land management outcome for the local communities of Troy and Libby because it conserves access and recreation on those lands, which is a big part of the quality of life for those communities,” said Jim Williams, FWP’s regional wildlife manager. “These are accessible lands. We’re not talking about pieces of rock way up high, these areas are right outside people’s back doors.”

He said the area is a popular destination because of an abundance of elk and trout. People are also drawn to the area for hiking, mountain biking, camping, skiing, snowmobiling, wildlife viewing and horseback riding.

The area is also part of the Cabinet-Yaak Grizzly Bear Recovery Area, one of six grizzly bear recovery zones in the lower 48 states designated by the U.S. Fish and Wildlife Service. The easement contains the largest block of privately owned land in the recovery area.

“There are high connectivity values not only for grizzly bears, but for wide-ranging species including wolverine, elk, lynx, fisher,” Diekmann said. “It’s a key stepping stone to linkage zones throughout the northern Rockies.”

The conservation easement was paid for with the U.S. Forest Service’s Forest Legacy Program, the Wildlife Service’s Habitat Conservation Plan Land Acquisition grant program, the Montana Fish and Wildlife Conservation Trust, and a donation of land value from Stimson Lumber Co.