MOSCOW, Idaho – The Palouse Land Trust wants to work with residents and a preservation committee to save an ancient cedar grove of trees nearly 1,000 years old that sits on state-owned land in northern Idaho, the group’s executive director said.
Amy Trujillo said she has talked with the cedar grove advisory committee and they hope to find a permanent solution for the 295 acres on Moscow Mountain managed by the Idaho Department of Lands.
“The more brains we get together on this, the better,” Trujillo told the Lewiston Tribune.
Logging the grove became possible when Latah County commissioners this week opted out of a 10-year lease with the state agency, citing the expense of the $5,300 annual cost. The state agency is obligated by law to make money from endowment land, and state officials have said that includes the possibility of selling the land or leasing it for timber harvest.
The mission of the Palouse Land Trust is to conserve the open space, scenery, wildlife habitat and water quality in the region. Conserving the cedar grove would fit that mission.
Trujillo said she talked with Paul Kimmill, a former Latah County commissioner who leads the cedar grove advisory committee that formed six years ago, “about what the committee has been doing and to see if there is a role the land trust can play in that.”
“We ultimately want to put this, under an ideal situation, in the Palouse Land Trust,” said Kimmell. “So the conversation is happening. Everybody agrees that it’s a very special place, there’s no doubt of that.”
The grove is hard to get to and doesn’t have public access, though a timber company allows access through private land.
“Accessibility is very difficult up there,” Kimmell said. “It’s surrounded by private timber holdings and, through the good graces of Bennett Lumber, there’s access. But is it really public? Well, no.”
Trujillo said the land trust usually works with landowners who donate conservation easements. But the Idaho Department of Lands by law must use endowment lands to maximize profit in the long term, so donating a conservation easement seems unlikely.
“If we’re going to do something, we really want it to be community-driven,” Trujillo said.