Water conservation

Kootenai Conservation Agreement protects 27,000 acres of Stimson Timberland

A conservation easement was finalized Thursday on more than 27,000 acres of woodland owned by Stimson Lumber Company near Libby, providing permanent protections over key wildlife habitats while securing access to recreation and keeping a forest active. .

The property is owned by the Stimson Lumber Company, which is one of the oldest integrated wood products companies in the United States, with roots dating back to the 1850s. Under the agreement, Montana Fish, Wildlife and Parks (FWP ) will hold the conservation easement while Stimson will retain ownership of the land and continue to manage it sustainably for timber production. The easement prevents development, protects important wildlife habitat and key landscape connectivity, and provides permanent public access and recreational opportunities on the property.

The easement was a collaborative effort between Stimson, FWP and The Trust for Public Lands, which announced the deal had been reached on Thursday morning. The project concludes the second phase of the Kootenai Forest Land Conservation Project, which includes 27,289 acres of the Stimson property southeast of Libby.

“Stimson Lumber Company strongly supports working forest lands that provide quality recreational opportunities, excellent fish and wildlife habitat, and a healthy environment,” said Andrew Miller, President and CEO of Stimson Lumber Company. “Working forest lands also support vibrant and healthy forests that contribute to important rural economies. Stimson enjoys being part of the collaborative effort with The Trust for Public Land and Montana Fish, Wildlife and Parks on this important landscape project in northwestern Montana. Present and future generations will appreciate the benefits of this important project.

The newly completed easement builds not only on the initial phase of the Kootenai Forestlands project, which protected 22,295 acres of land adjacent to Stimson using similar funding sources, including the Department of the Department’s Forest Legacy Program (FLP). Agriculture in the United States, but it matches the Thompson 142,000 acres. – The Fishermen’s Conservation Easement and the 27,992 acre Kootenai Valleys Conservation Easement.

In addition to the FLP dollars, funding for the project was provided by the Acres for America and Great Migrations program of the National Fish and Wildlife Foundation, the Montana Fish and Wildlife Conservation Trust, and “a very generous grant from the land value of the Stimson Lumber Company, ”according to a TPL statement announcing the completion of the project.

In addition to the timber production and recreational values ​​of the Project area, the landscape provides a key wintering area and migration corridor for elk, mule deer, white-tailed deer and moose. It will also ensure the protection of critical habitat for threatened species such as Bull Trout, Grizzly Bear and Canada Lynx found on the property.

“The most successful conservation efforts involve collaboration, and the Kootenai Forestlands project is a prime example,” said Jim Williams, FWP Supervisor for Region 1. “This project brought together public and private entities to support farmed land, wildlife habitat and public access for recreation. Montana is fortunate to have landowners like the Stimson Lumber Company who appreciate these results, and we are fortunate to have The Trust for Public Land which helps local communities protect the lands they value and use for years. generations.

Indeed, Williams said, few nonprofits can match TPL’s contributions to protecting land in northwestern Montana, especially with regard to continued production and management. wood, as well as the preservation of wildlife habitat and watersheds. In 2003, for example, TPL was instrumental in delivering a seven-year, $ 34 million effort to preserve the Thompson and Fisher River valleys from development, setting aside what was then the largest conservation easement in Montana history.

“The Trust for Public Land is delighted to have played a role in this conservation effort, which will ensure the protection of logged forests, jobs in wood products and permanent access to public land for thousands of Montanais,” Chris Deming, TPL’s Northern Rocky Mountain Land Protection Officer. director, said about the Kootenai Forestlands project. “This wouldn’t happen without the generous support of the Stimson Lumber Company and collaboration with Montana Fish, Wildlife, and Parks and we thank our partners for their leadership and vision. “

The two U.S. senators from Montana also backed the project and were instrumental in enacting the Great American Outdoors Act last year, as well as stabilizing and increasing funding for the Land and Water Conservation Fund (LWCF ), which funds the FLP. In statements to the Beacon, the Senses. Jon Tester, D-Montana, and Steve Daines, R-Montana, applauded the Kootenai Forestlands project as a victory for industry, conservation and recreation.

“This project will help increase public access to public lands and support outdoor recreation for all Montanais,” said Daines. “This project would not have been possible without the passage of my historic conservation legislation, the Great American Outdoors Act.”

“The Kootenai Forest Land Conservation Project shows what is possible when sustainable timber and conservationists come together to find solutions,” according to Tester. “I am proud to have led the Senate campaign for the Land and Water Conservation Fund and the Great American Outdoors Act, which enabled the Forest Service to do this. This project will create well-paying jobs in Montana and ensure that we protect public access and preserve our virgin forests for decades to come.