Forest Capital Partners last week sold development rights while retaining the ability to harvest timber on 3,943 acres near McArthur Lake, about 18 miles north of Sandpoint.
The cost, appraised at $4.3 million, is paid by private partners and $3.2 million from the U.S. Forest Service Forest Legacy Program, a competitive federal grant program that promotes conservation and working forests across the nation.
Funding also was provided by the National Fish and Wildlife Foundation and the Doris Duke Charitable Foundation’s Northwest Wildlife Conservation Initiative with the help of The Nature Conservancy.
The Idaho Department of Lands, which owns about 25,000 acres in the area, will administer the program.
“Our first consideration entering a conservation easement is whether the land has values important to the public,” said Brian Kernohan, spokesman for Forest Capital Partners. “Near McArthur Lake area, a migration corridor that’s been identified clearly suggests there’s public value in addition to business value.
“Secondly, we want an agreement that allows us to maintain a working forest.”
The company is selling rights to develop the property as well as adhering to public requirements for sustainable forestry, he said.
In other words, Forest Capital Partners can’t take the conservation easement money and then clear cut the forest and liquidate the timber.
“We are thrilled to see this type of partnership to protect land important to wildlife,” said Kathy Cousins, Idaho Fish and Game Department biologist. Her agency manages the 1,207-acre McArthur Lake Wildlife Area.
“This is an example of land that’s very important to bears, elk, moose, deer and waterfowl, but it’s also highly desirable to people who want to build homes with easy access to roads, next to streams and with views over water.”
The easement will help preserve a migration corridor between national forest lands in the Selkirk and Cabinet-Yaak mountain ranges, she said.
“We already have challenges with the railroad and Highway 95, but preventing further development on both sides of the highway in that corridor leaves the option in the future of creating overpasses or underpasses to help reduce the loss of wildlife.”
Keeping that option open is proving beneficial elsewhere. Deer, elk and even a fox almost immediately began using an $800,000 tunnel that opened in November under State Highway 21 near Boise, where vehicle collisions with wildlife have been common.
Robyn Miller of The Nature Conservancy said Forest Capital Partners had already received offers from real estate developers for its land near McArthur Lake. “The company’s land bordering public lands are prime for subdivision,” she said.
“These conservation easements are our best and last hope to protect public access and important big-game habitat in this area.”