A $500,000 gift from Wal-Mart Stores is the last bit of money needed to protect private forestland along the St. Joe River east of St. Maries, Idaho.
The grant was announced Monday and will go toward permanently protecting a total of 54,613 acres of fish and wildlife habitat in the Calder area owned by Potlatch Corporation.
Much of the land will remain in timber production, but the new conservation easements will forever prohibit real estate development, said Roger Hoesterey, vice president of The Trust for Public Land. The group worked with Trout Unlimited and the National Fish and Wildlife Foundation to raise the money.
“This was a great way to protect the environment and protect jobs,” Hoesterey said.
Public access for hikers, hunters and anglers will also be protected in perpetuity, said Mark Benson, spokesman for Potlatch. The Spokane-based company will manage the land under fish- and wildlife-friendly guidelines developed by the independent certification group, Forest Stewardship Council.
The Wal-Mart money is part of a $10 million fundraising campaign that began in 2003. About three-quarters of the funding came from federal dollars, including the U.S. Forest Service’s Forest Legacy Program, which identifies and purchases easements on important habitat nationwide.
“The St. Joe River is one of the few world-class cutthroat trout fisheries remaining in the American West and an extremely important river for threatened bull trout,” according to a statement issued by Charles Gauvin, president of Trout Unlimited.