Conservation easement celebrated for returning 13,400 acres to Stillwater

Print Article

  • The Stillwater Forest Conservation Easement, previously known as the Whitefish Lake Watershed Project, returned roughly 13,400 acres of forestland to state control. The conservation easement was completed in October 2018 adding the acreage to the Stillwater State Forest. (Heidi Desch/Whitefish Pilot)

  • 1

    Gathered around a kiosk last week along Upper Whitefish Road in the Stillwater State Forest, a group of folks celebrated the completion of the Stillwater Forest Conservation Easement, which returned roughly 13,400 acres of forestland to state control. (Heidi Desch/Whitefish Pilot)

  • 2

    Dick Dolan, Northern Rockies Director for The Trust for Public Land, thanked a list of state and federal agencies that were involved in efforts surrounding the Stillwater Forest Conservation Easement during a gathering last week celebrating the completion of the project. (Heidi Desch/Whitefish Pilot)

  • 3

    A gathering last week along Upper Whitefish Road in the Stillwater State Forest celebrated the completion of the Stillwater Forest Conservation Easement, which returned roughly 13,400 acres of forestland to state control. (Heidi Desch/Whitefish Pilot)

  • 4

    The Stillwater Forest Conservation Easement, previously known as the Whitefish Lake Watershed Project, returned roughly 13,400 acres of forestland to state control. The conservation easement was completed in October 2018 adding the acreage to the Stillwater State Forest. (Heidi Desch/Whitefish Pilot)

  • 5

    A sign along Upper Whitefish Road announces the entrance to the Stillwater Forest Conservation Easement in the Stillwater State Forest. (Heidi Desch/Whitefish Pilot)

  • 6

    John Tubbs, director of the Montana Department of Natural Resources and Conservation, speaks last week during a gathering celebrating the completion of the Stillwater Forest Conservation Easement, which returned roughly 13,400 acres of forestland to state control. (Heidi Desch/Whitefish Pilot)

  • 7

    The Stillwater State Forest is west of Whitefish. (Heidi Desch/Whitefish Pilot)

  • The Stillwater Forest Conservation Easement, previously known as the Whitefish Lake Watershed Project, returned roughly 13,400 acres of forestland to state control. The conservation easement was completed in October 2018 adding the acreage to the Stillwater State Forest. (Heidi Desch/Whitefish Pilot)

  • 1

    Gathered around a kiosk last week along Upper Whitefish Road in the Stillwater State Forest, a group of folks celebrated the completion of the Stillwater Forest Conservation Easement, which returned roughly 13,400 acres of forestland to state control. (Heidi Desch/Whitefish Pilot)

  • 2

    Dick Dolan, Northern Rockies Director for The Trust for Public Land, thanked a list of state and federal agencies that were involved in efforts surrounding the Stillwater Forest Conservation Easement during a gathering last week celebrating the completion of the project. (Heidi Desch/Whitefish Pilot)

  • 3

    A gathering last week along Upper Whitefish Road in the Stillwater State Forest celebrated the completion of the Stillwater Forest Conservation Easement, which returned roughly 13,400 acres of forestland to state control. (Heidi Desch/Whitefish Pilot)

  • 4

    The Stillwater Forest Conservation Easement, previously known as the Whitefish Lake Watershed Project, returned roughly 13,400 acres of forestland to state control. The conservation easement was completed in October 2018 adding the acreage to the Stillwater State Forest. (Heidi Desch/Whitefish Pilot)

  • 5

    A sign along Upper Whitefish Road announces the entrance to the Stillwater Forest Conservation Easement in the Stillwater State Forest. (Heidi Desch/Whitefish Pilot)

  • 6

    John Tubbs, director of the Montana Department of Natural Resources and Conservation, speaks last week during a gathering celebrating the completion of the Stillwater Forest Conservation Easement, which returned roughly 13,400 acres of forestland to state control. (Heidi Desch/Whitefish Pilot)

  • 7

    The Stillwater State Forest is west of Whitefish. (Heidi Desch/Whitefish Pilot)

Swaths of the state forestland west of Whitefish between 1915 and 1925 were sold, eventually coming to be owned by the Great Northern Railroad. Trees on the property were then logged to be used as railroad ties.

Ownership of the property changed over time to private timber companies, but remained a missing piece in the Stillwater State Forest. Last week representatives from state and federal agencies, the timber company that ultimately agreed to sell the land and the public land trust that led the way in conservation efforts gathered to celebrate the return of roughly 13,400 acres of forestland to state control.

“We are here 100 years later with the making whole of what used to be a big tooth out of the Stillwater State Forest,” said John Tubbs, director of the Montana Department of Natural Resources and Conservation. “This is a great day in the history of the state of Montana and the Stillwater State Forest.”

The Stillwater Forest Conservation Easement, which was previously called the Whitefish Lake Watershed Project, was completed in October 2018 adding the acreage to the Stillwater State Forest. A series of land maneuvers over a number of years, along with public and private funding paved the way to preserve the forestland owned and to be managed by DNRC. The easement for the property has a value of $40 million.

Gathering alongside Upper Whitefish Road last week in the Stillwater not far from Olney, about 50 people stood beside an informational kiosk explaining the history of the property and its return to the state forest. Just a short distance down the road, a blue sign proclaims the entrance to the land included in the conservation easement.

The Trust for Public Land began several years ago proposing to preserve the chunk of forestland protecting it from likely development, but that couldn’t have happened without a willing landowner, says Dick Dolan, Northern Rockies Director for TPL. That landowner came first through Plum Creek and later Weyerhaeuser after it took over ownership when the companies merged, giving TPL the first option to buy and conserve the property.

The property had long been viewed as a priority for land conservation as an important protection for critical fish and wildlife habitat, public access and recreational opportunities, while also promoting sustainable forest management.

“This is not just about conservation, it’s not just about recreation, it’s not just about timber management — it’s all of those stacked on top of each other,” Dolan said. “These projects find that sweet spot and we’re delivering the things that the people of Montana want.”

The state Department of Natural Resources and Conservation, Montana Fish, Wildlife and Parks and The Trust for Public Land worked together to purchase and conserve the property.

The project was completed in three phases — the Lazy Creek phases and the Swift Creek phase. The state Land Board approved all three phases.

The property in the easement will be managed under DNRC with its mission to administer state trust lands to generate revenue to benefit state schools.

“Trust lands is out there everyday making money for our school children,” Tubbs noted. “The easement allows us to provide timber off this landscape and protect it through good stewardship. Being able to get board feet of timber off the land is also important to supporting the economy of northwest Montana.”

While DNRC owns the property, FWP holds the conservation easement on two phases, and Bonneville Power Administration purchased the final phase with the conservation easement being held on that section by the federal government.

Alan Woods, science program supervisor for FWP’s Region 1, says FWP was happy to participate in the project by holding the conservation easement, and thanked DNRC for being willing to own the property.

“FWP does this all the time,” he said. “Statewide we hold conservation easements on about a half-million acres of property.”

As many other speakers during the gathering did, Woods thanked all of the partners involved in the project but also noted that the project was at risk of dying many times throughout the process, but each partner provided key support to keep it alive.

Montana Sens. Republican Steve Daines and Democrat Jon Tester both supported the project and sent representatives last week to read letters from them during the gathering.

Funding for the conservation easement came as a result of $5.5 million in land banking and $34.5 million came from other sources including private and public funding sources, according to DNRC.

Federal funding from the Land and Water Conservation Fund was provided to the project through the U.S. Forest Service’s Forest Legacy Program and the U.S. Fish and Wildlife Service Cooperative Endangered Species Conservation Fund program.

Additional funding came from the Montana Fish & Wildlife Conservation Trust and FWP’s Habitat Montana program.

Print Article

Read More Local News

Police calls: ‘Hoboville’ designation given to Depot Park

August 13, 2019 at 3:38 pm | Whitefish Pilot Wednesday, July 31 8:21 a.m. A Second Street business had video of someone breaking in the previous afternoon and stealing $200 in cash. 11:34 a.m. Kids were screaming while they played on a trampo...

Comments

Read More

‘Boeing Boeing’ closes out Whitefish Theatre season

August 13, 2019 at 3:38 pm | Whitefish Pilot The Whitefish Theatre Co. is presenting a special summer production of “Boeing Boeing” at the O’Shaughnessy Center in Whitefish. This hilarious, zany comedy is the perfect show to close out WTC’s 4...

Comments

Read More

Shaeffer helps connect buyers and sellers with art

August 13, 2019 at 3:38 pm | Whitefish Pilot Kelly Shaeffer finds that most people have something to sell, but often they don’t want to go through the process of doing it themselves. That’s where her business Kelly’s Collectibles and Online A...

Comments

Read More

Rockfall kills girl on Glacier’s Sun Road

August 13, 2019 at 3:36 pm | Whitefish Pilot A 14-year-old girl died Monday from injuries she suffered when falling rocks struck a vehicle on Going-to-the-Sun Road, Glacier Park officials report. Around 7 p.m. Monday, rock fall near the East T...

Comments

Read More

Contact Us

(406) 862-3505
312 E. Second Street
Whitefish, MT 59937

©2019 Whitefish Pilot Terms of Use Privacy Policy
X
X