Trust Works To Preserve Land Group On The Lookout For Parcels Worthy Of Permanent Protection
They love their land so deeply they want to see it protected for eternity. So they turn to the Inland Northwest Land Trust.
Since 1991, three landowners across eight counties have taken advantage of the chance to preserve their properties forever. The land trust has plans to dramatically increase those numbers.
With a new director - Chris DeForest - and a new program, “Threads of Hope,” the land trust is spreading the word about options for preserving lands for future generations.
“With Threads of Hope, we are deliberately becoming more pro-active,” said DeForest, who was hired by the land trust in June. “We are going to continue over the next 10 years to identify landowners and build an ongoing connection to people in the community.”
DeForest has deep roots connecting him to the Inland Northwest. Although he was born and raised in Seattle, he spent every summer vacation at the family’s Lake Pend Oreille getaway. He is also a descendent of Aubrey White, known as the father of Spokane’s park system.
Now Deforest is heading the effort to help preserve the region’s open space.
“Chris brings a lot of energy and full-time effort to this,” said member Linda Martin. “Thanks to Chris, we are becoming a lot better known. He has time to spread the word about us.”
On the South Side, the land trust is particularly reaching out to landowners in the Dishman Hills-Moran Prairie-Glenrose area and the Marshall Creek Watershed toward Cheney.
The locations were chosen because of their environmental importance, high degree of threat and grass-roots groups willing to become involved.
The non-profit land trust was organized in 1991 and covers eight counties - six in Washington, plus Kootenai and Bonner counties in Idaho.
Trust spokesmen are hesitant to discuss properties in the process or being considered for easements.
“We respect the landowners’ needs and their wants,” said Martin, a member of the land trust’s site committee.
“The landowners we are working with choose not to go public now. It is still private land,” she said.
Kathy Miotke of Spokane, a North Side resident, was the first to preserve property through the Inland Northwest Land Trust.
Also, a family farm was protected in Kootenai County, as was timber and ranch land in Stevens County.
The land trust works with private landowners to protect wetlands, scenic and recreational lands, agricultural and forest lands and grass lands through conservation easements.
An easement is a legal agreement between the landowner and the land trust to permanently protect the property. The land continues to be private property, not for public use.
“Part of the appeal of the land trust is that we work quickly and quietly with people,” said DeForest.
The easement protects land from unwanted uses, such as development, logging or mining.
The owner can continue living on or farming the land.
The property also can be used for wildlife habitat or selective timber harvesting.
“The land trust is specific but also flexible,” said DeForest.
The conservation easement is considered permanent. No parcel is too big or too small to be considered. Miotke’s easement covers two acres, and the family farm in Kootenai County is 160 acres. To be eligible, land should have some ecological, educational, scenic, recreational or historic value.
“Kathy Miotke’s land was important, in part because it is in an urbanizing area,” said DeForest.
There are also possible financial benefits of donating land for an easement, including a reduction in property, estate or gift taxes.
“Sometimes landowners are forced to sell their property because of the taxes,” said Luke Cayer, a member of the land trust’s site committee.
But often tax breaks aren’t the main goal of landowners entering agreements with the land trust.
“If you love the land, for a lot of people it’s just an emotional thing,” Cayer said.
, DataTimes MEMO: This sidebar appeared with the story: SITE NOMINATIONS The Inland Northwest Land Trust plans to work with neighborhood groups to identify properties to include in the land trust. For more information, call 328-2939.
This sidebar appeared with the story: SITE NOMINATIONS The Inland Northwest Land Trust plans to work with neighborhood groups to identify properties to include in the land trust. For more information, call 328-2939.