More forests and public access are secure thanks to The Nature Conservancy’s sale of 12,039 acres of former industrial timber land to the U.S. Forest Service. The land, part of a 2014 purchase of the last industrial timber land in the Blackfoot, was characterized by the checkerboard pattern of public-private ownership that was created more than a century ago – a pattern that made management of the land difficult and costly.
This land is in the upper portions of the Twin Creek watersheds below Wisherd Ridge, as well as west of Placid Lake. It was identified as a priority through a public process, in partnership with the Blackfoot Challenge. This property is near the border of the Rattlesnake Wilderness, the Rattlesnake National Recreation Area, as well the Confederated Salish and Kootenai Tribe’s South Fork Jocko Primitive Area west of Placid Lake.
“This sale is the result of nearly 20 years of community-based, public-private partnership aimed at eliminating the ownership mix that made management of these lands challenging,” according to TNC’s Western Montana Land Protection Director Chris Bryant. “Outdoor enthusiasts, wildlife and local communities all benefit from the results of this partnership.”
In addition to its value for wildlife and recreation, the upper Twin Creeks area is home to stands of trees that are unusual for this region. These includes stands of Western Red Cedar comingled with Pacific Yew as well as Mountain Hemlock higher up. The trees are relics of a wetter past, and likely survive because of the heavy snows on Wisherd Ridge which create a wetter than normal site. This snow not only provides comfort for these stands of trees more associated with a maritime climate, but also provides great terrain for enthusiastic backcountry skiers!
“Thanks to The Nature Conservancy and their commitment to conservation, public access and fostering collaborative partner relationships, this acquisition will connect important habitat, secure stream connectivity, and improve management ability and efficiency. We look forward to managing this land on behalf of the public for generations to come,” stated Carolyn Upton, Lolo National Forest Supervisor.
This is the second of two transactions with the USFS in the area that have combined to permanently protect habitat and public access on more than 28,000 acres. The project was made possible by the passage of the Great American Outdoors Act and the Land and Water Conservation Fund (LWCF).