Published in the Whitefish Pilot 6.11.2014
There is something to be said about having recreational access out your backdoor. Nothing is better than jumping on your bike, walking or taking a short drive to reach nearby trails and open spaces. The Whitefish Trail from Lion Mountain to Beaver Lakes now provides unlimited public access to lands that were once contemplated for development. As we are working to make the final payment to permanently secure the Beaver Lakes area, another door is opening right in our other backyard – Haskill Basin.
Haskill Basin has been treasured by many for years, and the opportunity to recreate on these lands has been allowed as a neighborly accommodation by F.H. Stoltze Land and Lumber Company, the oldest family owned and operated private timber company in Montana. Although many know Haskill Basin for its combination of trails and roads for hiking, hunting, running and skiing, Haskill Basin also serves as the municipal water supply for the City of Whitefish and is known for its rich biological diversity.
Haskill Basin is positioned adjacent to Whitefish Mountain Resort, Iron Horse, and town and provides a graceful transition to the wild lands of the southern Whitefish Range. The value of this land is undeniable as our town continues to grow in popularity as a recreational destination. The opportunity to permanently protect water quality, wildlife and recreation in Haskill Basin is now a possibility, with F.H. Stoltze Land and Lumber Company willing to relinquish the development rights on their property while maintaining the management of the timber resources.
This opportunity is being pursued by a conservation partner, The Trust for Public Land (TPL). TPL is a non-profit organization that creates parks and protects land for people, ensuring healthy, livable communities for generations to come. TPL works on projects across the nation and has negotiated several large land transactions that have resulted in the preservation of hundreds of thousands of acres of working forests in Montana.
In 2010, TPL secured 28,000 acres in the Troy and Lake Creek area in Northwest Montana. Working with Stimson Lumber Company, TPL successfully negotiated a conservation easement on these lands, much of it critical habitat for endangered species. This area continues to be managed as a working forest while simultaneously protecting water quality and recreation access.
TPL has already been hard at work on the Haskill Basin project. This winter TPL submitted the project to the U.S. Forest Service Forest Legacy Program, a federal program that provides funding to protect environmentally significant forest lands threatened by conversion to non-forest uses. TPL recently announced that the Haskill Basin project was ranked the highest national priority project by the Forest Legacy Program, a key factor keeping this project moving forward.
If successful, the development rights will be removed, the City of Whitefish will secure its municipal water supply, Stoltze will continue to manage the timber resources sustainably, and recreation access will be guaranteed right out our backdoor!
The City of Whitefish, TPL, F.H. Stoltze Land and Lumber Company, Montana Fish, Wildlife and Parks, and Whitefish Legacy Partners are opening the door locally and hosting an open house so the community has a chance to understand the details regarding this nationally significant project. Come learn about our water supply, forest resources, and recreational access on Tuesday, June 17th at the O’Shaughnessy Center at 7:00 p.m. It’s ON…Haskill Basin!