December 21, 2009 in Idaho

Preserving views, family traditions

Conservation easement keeps 500 acres along Lake CdA safe from development
Beckyk@Spokesman.Com, (208) 765-7122
Kathy Plonka photo

Drew Reinke, of the Inland Northwest Land Trust, walks along the Trail of the Coeur d’Alenes in Harrison near O’Gara Bay on Thursday. The Maucieri family put a conservation easement on 500 acres south of Harrison. The parcel includes 1.5 miles of waterfront along the trail.
(Full-size photo)

A sprawling piece of private forest on Lake Coeur d’Alene’s eastern shore will be forever off-limits to development. Nearly a century ago, Jean Maucieri’s parents built a cabin on the land, after her dad entered a lottery to homestead on the Coeur d’Alene Indian Reservation. Last fall, the 95-year-old Los Angeles resident put a conservation easement on the 500 acres, protecting the property’s timber and wildlife values for future generations. “We didn’t want our land cut into 5-acre lots. We want to preserve it as Idaho, as it was, as we remember it,” Maucieri said in a recent phone interview.

The land south of Harrison borders nearly a mile and a half of the Trail of the Coeur d’Alenes. Each year, 30,000 cyclists on the rails-to-trails route ride past the property’s mature pine and fir forests, which overlook Shingle and O’Gara bays.

“This easement protects that beautiful view for the trail,” said Chris DeForest, executive director of the Inland Northwest Land Trust, which worked with Maucieri to establish the easement. “Thanks to the easement, there will never be houses cheek-to-jowl along the trail.”

Maucieri’s fondness for the land was forged during the summers she spent at Lake Coeur d’Alene. Last summer was the first time in her life that she didn’t sit out beneath the towering pines and watch sunsets over the lake.

“I was too old to travel by myself,” Maucieri said. Her oldest daughter, who accompanied her on past visits, had other commitments. But Maucieri expects to be back at the lake next summer.

“We do love Idaho, believe me,” she said. “All the family does.”

Maucieri’s father, Bert Selby, acquired the land through one of those happenstances that alter the course of a life. In 1910 he was riding the train west to San Francisco, where he planned to join his older brother. When the train stopped in Coeur d’Alene, he got out at the downtown station.

“He was so impressed by the beautiful lake,” Maucieri said. “Compared to Grand Forks, North Dakota, where Bert grew up, and the flat, hot wheat fields and the bitter winters, he couldn’t imagine a nicer place than North Idaho.”

Selby entered a lottery that was dividing up Indian lands. When he won a chance to pick out property on the Coeur d’Alene reservation, he left San Francisco and convinced his fiancée in Grand Forks to move up their wedding so they could homestead in Idaho.

The newlyweds didn’t spend much time together that first summer. Selby was conscripted to fight the 1910 forest fires that charred 3 million acres of Idaho and Montana. His wife, Hazel, moved into a hotel in Harrison, then a rough-and-tumble timber town.

The couple homesteaded 160 acres. They later bought adjoining land that gave them lakefront access.

After the couple proved up their homestead and acquired title to the land, they moved. Selby took a job with a wholesale fruit and grocery company. The family, which included two daughters, lived in various Western cities as Selby moved up in management. He eventually took a job at the corporate office in Minneapolis.

“Wherever we were living, we would go out to Idaho for the summers to touch base,” Maucieri said.

Driving from Minneapolis to North Idaho took nearly a week in her father’s 1924 Nash touring car. Crossing the Continental Divide on a gravel road was a day’s journey in itself.

When Maucieri was grown, she brought her own family to the lake from Southern California.

“My sister and I learned how to water-ski on Lake Coeur d’Alene,” said Candy Scalberg, the oldest of Maucieri’s three children.

Her younger brother, John, was fascinated by the tugboats that steered loads of logs across Lake Coeur d’Alene.

Over the years, four generations of the family have spent summers on the land, which is also home to white-tailed deer, elk, coyotes, black bears and dozens of bird species. Last week, a barred owl kept watch over Maucieri’s driveway from a nearby snag.

Under the terms of the easement, the family can continue to selectively log the property, but they can’t subdivide it. Three parcels with houses built by Maucieri’s children were excluded from the easement.

The conservation easement fit the family’s long-term goals for the property, Scalberg said.

“We wanted it preserved without development,” she said.

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