Conservation groups buy pieces of Montana — a lot of pieces By Kim McDonald
The Nature Conservancy and the Trust for Public Land are buying 500 square miles of western Montana from Plum Creek, the timber real estate investment trust, for $510 million. It involves a federal financing mechanism, to the consternation of conservatives, and compromise, to the displeasure of some environmentalists. But it is preventing development of forest habitat.
Anyone who has driven Highway 2 between Spokane and Whitefish, Mont., has witnessed clear-cut moonscapes left by Plum Creek timber company loggers. As residential real estate growth explodes in areas near Kalispell, Whitefish, the Swan Valley, and Missoula, those Plum Creek lands were destined to become subdivisions. Which is why the recent announcement by The Nature Conservancy, the Trust for Public Land, and Plum Creek of the sale of 320,000 acres (500 square miles) of timberland in western Montana should be hailed as a major conservation coup. For $510 million, the two conservation groups will acquire vast tracts of land that will be a major piece of the Crown of the Rockies, a complicated ecosystem of wolves, grizzlies, pine trees, Bull trout, Osprey, and salmon.