A conservation deal finalized this month furnishes permanent protections on more than 1,000 acres of forested land tracking along the Stillwater River near Olney, where an easement will allow F.H. Stoltze Land and Lumber Company to harvest timber from the parcel while staving off development pressure.
The nonprofit Trust for Public Land (TPL) announced the deal earlier this month after completing a conservation easement on the 1,072-acre inholding flanked by the Flathead National Forest and Stillwater State Forest. The agreement was reached in partnership with F.H. Stoltze, which purchased the property from TPL, as well as the Flathead Land Trust.
In addition to providing a rich timber resource, the property also supports wildlife habitat and a pristine watershed situated between Upper Stillwater and Lower Stillwater lakes, while the local economy will see gains through improved access for public outdoor recreation in a riverine landscape located just 10 miles from Whitefish.
“This project is just one chapter in our long history of conserving working forests in Montana,” Dick Dolan, TPL’s northern Rockies regional director, said. “We are proud to be able to preserve some of the region’s most special places for outdoor recreation, while also ensuring the health and continuity of sustainable forestry. This project would not have been possible without the support of our exceptional partners.”
Over the past two decades, TPL has established itself as a state and nationwide leader in protecting working forests, including local projects like the Montana Legacy Project, Haskill Basin, Trumbull Creek, and the Kootenai Forestlands Conservation Project.
The support from the local community-based Flathead Land Trust has also been critical in bringing the conservation projects to fruition on complex checkerboards of land.
“This incredible property is now conserved in perpetuity and protects important wildlife habitat and water quality along the Stillwater River, as well as open space and forest resources for sustainable management,” said Paul Travis, executive director of the Flathead Land Trust. “The conservation easement also secures access for the use and enjoyment of the public adjacent to other public lands.”
The conservation easement will limit commercial, industrial and residential development on the property, which will still be managed by Stoltze.
“It is a unique property that fits well into our timberland holdings and will benefit from long-term forest management under our principles of sustainability,” Chuck Roady, vice president and general manager of Stoltze, said.
“Putting this property under conservation easement and long-term sustainable forest management is a great example of how healthy forests support healthy communities, both the two- and four-legged kind,” added Paul McKenzie, Stoltze’s lands and resource manager.
The project marks the third major easement between Stoltze and TPL, which received the land in 2017 through a donation by Cindy and Alan Horn.
“The outcome accomplishes the layered benefits that the former owners had hoped to see,” according to a statement from TPL. “It is a true win-win scenario for all parties and the residents of Montana.”
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