In a move to preserve about 142,000 acres of wildlife habitat,
the state Land Board unanimously approved the purchase of a conservation
easement on land between Kalispell and Libby, in the northwestern
part of the state. The area is home to deer, elk, grizzly bears,
wolves, lynx and bald eagles, as well as several varieties of trout.
The $29.9 million deal, involving Plum Creek Timberlands land,
is the largest conservation easement on private land in the state's
history. This means that no subdivision development may take place
on these acres; however, public access and timber harvesting will
be maintained. The purchase will occur over the next three or four
years, as money becomes available from a number of sources, including
the U.S. Forest Legacy program, a Washington-based hydroelectric
company that operates on the lower Clark Fork River and a wildlife
mitigation resource fund.