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Deal protects wildlife habitat near Libby

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Both public access and timber work will remain on 27,289 acres of forest near Libby through a new conservation easement with the Trust for Public Land.

Phase II of the Kootenai Forestlands Conservation Project got approved on Thursday with TPL, Montana Department of Fish, Wildlife & Parks and Stimson Lumber Co. The land has winter range and a migratory corridor for elk, mule deer, white-tailed deer and moose, as well as critical habitat for bull trout, grizzly bears and Canada lynx.

It dovetails with the first portion of the Stimson land protection that conserved 22,295 adjacent acres, as well as the 142,000-acre Thompson-Fisher conservation easement. Along with similar projects across the border in Idaho, about a quarter-million acres of forest and aquatic habitat have been protected in the past two years.

Most of the acreage in the latest easement lies south of the Lake Koocanusa Scenic Byway southeast of Libby.

“Stimson Lumber Company strongly supports working forestlands which provide quality recreational opportunities, excellent fish and wildlife habitat and a healthy environment,” said Andrew Miller, Stimson Lumber Company’s president and CEO. “Working forestlands also promote vibrant, healthy forests which contribute to important rural economies.”

Funding for the project came from the USDA’s Forest Legacy Program, NFWF’s Acres for America and Great Migrations Program, Montana Fish and Wildlife Conservation Trust, and a donation of land value from the Stimson Lumber Company.

“The most successful conservation efforts involve collaboration, and the Kootenai Forestlands project is a prime example,” said Montana Fish, Wildlife & Parks Regional Supervisor Jim Williams. “This project has brought together public and private entities to support working lands, wildlife habitat, and public access for recreation.”

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