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Close-up view of spiky green needles on a pacific yew tree.
Pacific Yew Close-up view of a pacific yew tree. © U.S. National Park Service

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Nature Conservancy Land Sale to U.S. Forest Service Preserves Public Access

  • Bebe Crouse
    The Nature Conservancy

  • Kate Jerman
    Lolo National Forest

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 include 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).

Colorful checkerboard map showing land sales in 2019, 2018 and what TNC owns.
Twin Creek Watershed Map Map of TNC and USFS land sales.

The Nature Conservancy is a global conservation organization dedicated to conserving the lands and waters on which all life depends. Guided by science, we create innovative, on-the-ground solutions to our world's toughest challenges so that nature and people can thrive together. We are tackling climate change, conserving lands, waters and oceans at an unprecedented scale, providing food and water sustainably and helping make cities more sustainable. Working in 76 countries and territories: 37 by direct conservation impact and 39 through partners, we use a collaborative approach that engages local communities, governments, the private sector, and other partners. To learn more, visit www.nature.org or follow @nature_press on Twitter.