In the Idaho panhandle, on the south face of the Cabinet Mountains overlooking Lake Pend Oreille, 921 acres of elk and moose wintering range have been permanently secured for wildlife habitat and public access in a land-exchange deal finalized Dec. 22.

The swap between Stimson Lumber Co. and the Idaho Panhandle National Forests was made possible in part by the Rocky Mountain Elk Foundation.

Formerly owned by Stimson Lumber, the 921 acres are now part of the adjoining Idaho Panhandle National Forests. In exchange, Stimson received a similar amount of U.S. Forest Service acreage in the form of small isolated tracts that are not connected to the main body of the national forest. All of the lands involved are in Bonner County, Idaho.

RMEF staff helped broker the deal and RMEF volunteers in Idaho raised money to help cover project costs.

“This project is good for elk, moose, deer and other wildlife because it protects habitat in a scenic area that’s disappearing beneath summer-home developments. Plus, larger contiguous public lands are more easily managed for elk than small, isolated tracts,” said David Allen, RMEF president and CEO. “We would like to thank the Bonner County Sportsmen’s Association and Litehouse Foods for their financial assistance with this project. We would especially like to thank Stimson Lumber for their patience through a long process.”

The project, originally dubbed the Rising Cougar Land Exchange, then renamed as the Hope-Sagle Land Exchange, took 10 years to complete.

The newly acquired public lands provide an ideal location for developing a new access point into the existing Idaho Panhandle National Forests trail system.

“This exchange provides excellent benefits to wildlife and recreation in north Idaho. We are thankful for the support of the partners to this transaction, especially RMEF and Bonner County Sportsmen, and the local communities who helped make this happen,” said Idaho Panhandle National Forests Supervisor Mary Farnsworth.

“This exchange benefits wildlife, the land and generations of people in northern Idaho.  Our company has been patient over the past 10 years to complete this exchange. Doing the ‘right thing’ just took a while to complete,” said Stimson Vice President Ray Jones.

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