Missoula, Mont. (June 29, 2023) – The U.S. Department of Agriculture Forest Service’s Northern Region announced today that 52,683 acres of private forest in northwestern Montana and northern Idaho will be improved and conserved with $26 million in federal Forest Legacy Program funding for 2023.
These private forest health improvement projects are part of an overall $188 million investment through President Biden’s Investing in America agenda to conserve some of the most economically and ecologically significant forestlands across the nation. The program ensures the most critical forestlands will continue to provide people and communities benefits like recreation opportunities, vibrant local economies and thriving ecosystems.
“These forests, identified by state, tribal, and non-profit partners as vital to local communities, are critical to the health of our planet and the livelihoods of millions of Americans,” said Agriculture Secretary Tom Vilsack. “As private forest landowners continue to face pressures to convert forests, the Forest Legacy program keeps working forests working. Thanks to President Biden’s Investing in America agenda, we are ensuring that the most important forested landscapes continue to provide economic and social benefits to the communities that depend on them for their lives and livelihoods.”
Northern Region projects include:
Project: Upper Thompson Connectivity Project
Federal Investment: $6 million
Non-Federal Cost Share: $2 million
Acres Protected: 23,176
This 23,176-acre conservation easement is the first phase of the Upper Thompson Connectivity Project, a 48,041-acre project which will add vital habitat connectivity for federally listed threatened species like grizzly bear, Canada lynx and bull trout. It will also ensure sustainable timber, maintain wood-product jobs, mitigate future wildfire costs and provide free public recreation access. The conservation easement provides connectivity across a large landscape by tying directly to an existing 142,000-acre conservation easement funded through the Forest Legacy Program in 2003 and two planned projects: a 114,000-acre Montana Great Outdoors Conservation Easement and the 100,000-acre Lost Trail Conservation Area proposed by the U.S. Fish and Wildlife Service.
Project: International Selkirk Loop Conservation Project
Federal Investment: $7 million
Non-Federal Cost Share: $2.35 million
Acres Protected: 10,883
The International Selkirk Loop Conservation Project, a conservation easement, will restrict development and provide public access to 10,883 acres of highly productive forestland in north Idaho. The project builds upon 350,000 acres of protected forestland and critical wildlife habitat that extends from Idaho’s Panhandle to Montana’s Glacier National Park. The project’s North Block, within the McArthur Lake Wildlife Corridor, protects occupied habitat of grizzly bear and Canada lynx, both federally listed threatened species. Through protection of the South Block, the project ensures ideal testing conditions will continue to exist at the adjacent U.S. Navy Surface Warfare Center on Lake Pend Oreille, enhancing national security efforts.
Project: Phase 1 of the Spirit of Mount Spokane Conservation Project
Federal Investment: $13 million
Non-Federal Cost Share: $4.35 million
Acres Protected: 18,624
The Spirit of Mount Spokane effort will protect 18,624 acres of high priority working forestlands while also securing public access to a recreational gem that serves as the backyard playground for Coeur d’Alene, ID, and Spokane, Wash. The project will eliminate an existing access fee, making the property accessible at no charge while also opening up landlocked, state-owned land. Downstream of the project lies the Spokane Valley-Rathdrum Prairie Aquifer, which provides drinking water to a majority of Spokane and Kootenai County’s 675,000 residents.
Nationwide, the agency’s Forest Legacy program funding will support 34 projects to conserve more than 245,000 acres of working forests that are critical to rural economies in 22 states and one island territory. The program identifies important forest lands threatened by conversion to non-forest use and works with state agencies, tribes and private landowners to conserve them as forests in perpetuity. The program is implemented through grants to states, which work with landowners to strategically conserve working forests through conservation easements or fee simple acquisitions.
President Biden’s Inflation Reduction Act provides $100 million toward projects in 2023, and an additional $250 million for similar projects next year, and $88 million from the Land and Water Conservation Fund. The LWCF is investing $700 million overall in the Forest Legacy Program over the next ten years to conserve forest resources that are critical to the social, physical and economic wellbeing of people and communities.
For a complete list of fiscal year 2023 projects, or to learn how states can apply for fiscal year 2024 funding, visit https://www.fs.usda.gov/managing-land/private-land/forest-legacy/program/fy23-funded-projects.