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MT National Forest Grows with The Nature Conservancy Sale

The Nature Conservancy is selling a checkerboard of land parcels to the U.S. Forest Service. (The Nature Conservancy)
The Nature Conservancy is selling a checkerboard of land parcels to the U.S. Forest Service. (The Nature Conservancy)
January 10, 2020

MISSOULA, Mont. - Lolo National Forest in western Montana is growing.

The Nature Conservancy has sold more than 16,000 acres of former industrial timberland to the U.S. Forest Service to add to the forest. Chris Bryant, western Montana land protection director with The Nature Conservancy expects his group will sell more land to the agency later this year.

Bryant says they closed on the last piece of industrial timberland in the Blackfoot Valley in 2015. He adds even as Plum Creek land, this area was open to the public.

"The access by Plum Creek and by ourselves is by choice, and having the Forest Service own the land, it's now public land," says Bryant. "So, it'll be enjoyed by the public for all time."

The Forest Service paid $11.9 million from the Land and Water Conservation Fund, a bipartisan federal program that opens up access to public lands and receives funding from offshore oil and gas revenue.

Bryant says The Nature Conservancy bought land in parcels that ended up looking like a checkerboard. Sale to the Forest Service ensures that it can be managed as one piece.

He explains the region is an important wildlife corridor for such species as grizzly bears, Canada lynx and wolverine, and has recreational value as well.

"This has a lot of recreational use, mainly by hunters, and then in the wintertime with snowmobilers," says Bryant. "But really, year-round, there's people out there on the ground. And so, both for wildlife protection and public access, it's just a really important piece of ground."

Lolo National Forest spans two million acres along Montana's border with Idaho.

Eric Tegethoff, Public News Service - MT