Location: ID – Northern Idaho
Project Type: Conservation Easement
A four-year project initiated by three landowners and supported by several groups and individuals in North Idaho came to fruition in the fall of 2011 when Vital Ground shepherded an effort to permanently protect 720 acres with conservation easements. In late 2007, three families — Greg and Alicia Johnson, Tom and Mary Mackey, and Sam and Carolyn Testa, adjoining property owners in Bane Creek — contacted Vital Ground with a desire to protect their properties’ traditional forest uses and important wildlife habitat amidst a rapidly growing rural community.
Vital Ground leveraged partnerships with the Idaho Department of Lands and the U.S. Forest Service to secure permanent conservation easements on the three adjacent properties — 720 acres of prime agricultural and timber land between the Selkirk and Cabinet-Yaak Grizzly Bear Recovery Zones. The acquisition was finalized in September 2011 through Idaho’s Forest Legacy Program, an effort administered in partnership with the U.S. Forest Service and state governments to protect privately owned, environmentally important forests.
The land’s blend of agricultural fields and timbered canyons are natural corridors for elk, white-tailed deer and moose to move from summer to winter range across the Kootenai Valley between the Selkirk and Purcell mountain ranges, while its low elevation habitat provides critical winter range. The easements also secured scenic benefits: the properties are located along the International Selkirk Loop, which is designated as an All American Road under the National Scenic Byways Program.
Diverse support from several groups — including the Kootenai Valley Resources Initiative, Boundary County Commissioners, Idaho Fish and Game, Kootenai Tribe of Idaho and The Nature Conservancy of Idaho — helped move the project to its positive conclusion. Thanks to the U.S. Forest Service’s continued support, the multi-year effort was Vital Ground’s second project to secure funding originating from the USDA’s Forest Legacy Program.