Trails instead of houses

Montana State Roundup

Published September 1, 2008  | September 2008 issue

In one of the biggest forestland preservation deals in U.S. history, Plum Creek Timber Co. has agreed to sell more than 300,000 acres of Montana forestland to two private conservation groups. The $510 million transaction shields from development large parcels of forest in the scenic Swan Valley north of Missoula and near the Bob Marshall Wilderness Area.

Plum Creek has come under fire from environmentalists and county governments for selling forested tracts to residential developers, closing off access for recreation and logging (see the July 2008 fedgazette). Most of the sold land will eventually become public, remaining open for hiking, snowmobiling and other outdoor pursuits. Under the terms of the deal-made possible by $250 million in federal funds—the land will also be cut for timber, with logs sold at market rates to Plum Creek lumber mills in the state over the next 15 years.

The deal doesn't put Plum Creek out of the real estate business in Montana; the protected land represents only one quarter of the firm's total forestland holdings in the state.

Phil Davies