Will Weyerhaeuser be a Good Neighbor?

Weyerhaeuser controls over 6 million acres across the country

By Monica J. Lindeen

Montanans are welcoming neighbors – and this month we learned that we’re all about to get a big, new neighbor. Weyerhaeuser is buying Plum Creek, the largest private landowner in Montana. While much of the concern has been rightly raised about the 750 Montanans employed by Plum Creek, I also want to raise concerns about land use policy.

As a member of Montana’s Land Board I’ve always fought hard for increasing access to Montana’s lands, both public and private. Weyerhaeuser utilizes a leasing system in other states that doesn’t make sense in a state like Montana where public access is highly valued.

Weyerhaeuser controls over 6 million acres across the country and in some of those places allows the public to access its land – for a price. Access is granted to its land through permits and exclusive leases. Permits are often limited in number and can cost as much as $275. Leases go to the highest bidder and provide exclusive use of the land.

I appreciate that many of Weyerhaeuser’s lands are in states with denser populations, more wealth, less public land and more pressure on the few parcels of game habitat that exist. An orderly system of access leases may make sense in other states.

However, if this practice comes to Montana, it would signal a marked change from the way Montanans have respectfully accessed the lands owned by Plum Creek – or any private landowner in our state. This practice would also exclude those Montanans who can’t afford to pay to utilize the land for recreation.

Almost all of Plum Creek’s nearly million acres of Montana timberland – and wildlife habitat – is open to the public for free recreational use.

Plum Creek has committed more than 613,000 acres of its Montana land to conservation through a combination of land sales, easements and land exchanges. This includes the 310,000-acre Montana Legacy Project – one of the largest private conservation land sales in our nation’s history.

Plum Creek has definitely been a good neighbor and Montanans, our wildlife and our outdoor way of life are richer as a result.

As a consequence, we don’t experience hundreds of hunters converging on a small piece of land each Opening Day – causing damage and endangering hunters. We don’t need exclusionary permits and expensive leases to ensure successful hunts.

So, welcome to Montana, Weyerhaeuser! Please take time to get to know your new neighbors and our traditions.

Monica J. Lindeen
Montana state auditor

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