Why Bemoan Outcome of Popular Land Deal?

The Haskill Basin easement is win-win for everybody

By Dave Fern

Dave Skinner’s recent column, “Robbing Peter,” is mostly nonsense with a few facts to confuse matters. Three years back, when I ran for Senate District 2, I stopped by the offices of F.H. Stoltze Land and Lumber Co.

Management shared their desire to establish a conservation easement for 3,000 acres of their Haskill Basin holdings, including the tributaries supplying a majority of the drinking water for residents in Whitefish. Simply said the timing was right for a deal. Stoltze’s Board was willing to make the deal. Boards change and with such change priorities may differ. I was very familiar with the land in question. In my opinion development is not compatible with the land in question. It rains and snows too much, there’s plenty of water and honestly, the land in question is pretty special.

The land was appraised and to most of us, it wasn’t surprising to see a sizable price tag associated with the acreage. Stoltze provided a discount, the Land Trust fronted resources and the voters of Whitefish taxed themselves an increase in the resort tax with better than 80 percent approval to pay for the city’s share.

Don’t mix up this purchase with the doughnut or critical lands issues. They all stand alone, conspiracies aside. Whitefish is certainly open for business with development occurring at a rapid pace. The Haskill Basin easement is win-win for everybody allowing private ownership, traditional uses of the land and a predictable source of drinking water. We ought to be celebrating such an arrangement rather than Dave Skinner bemoaning the outcome of a wildly popular measure.

Dave Fern, candidate House District 5

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