Sale of public lands proceeding
December 3, 2020
Last year, Weyerhaeuser announced the company reached an agreement to sell 630,000 acres of Montana timberland to a Georgia-based land investment firm, Southern Pine Plantations (SPP), for $145 million. The exchange between the two companies raised concerns not only among Montanans, but Sanders County residents, as the land includes acreage around the Thompson Falls Chain of Lakes, Thompson River and near Thompson Falls and Plains. Questions have been raised regarding public access, as the company has openly discussed the possibility of bringing in more private land investors and disrupting public access for hunting, fishing and recreation.
Less than a year after the initial purchase, nearly half of the newly acquired timberland will change hands for a second time. On November 2, a news release stated Green Diamond Resource Company has acquired 291,000 acres of the working forest land in Northwest Montana from SPP. No purchase price has been disclosed. Green Diamond, is a privately owned Seattle based company, owns working forest land in Washington, Oregon, California and now in Montana. The news release states the transaction is expected to be completed by January 14, 2021, which will bring Green Diamond's total land base under management to 2.1 million acres.
As SPP pledged to maintain their agreement for public access, the same has been said for Green Diamond. The company has also pledged to keep public access available while maintaining conservation as they move forward with management of the land. "We see this as a generational asset," Douglas Reed, Green Diamond Resource Company president, said in a news release. "It is our intent to manage these lands as working forests going forward." Reed explained Green Diamond's long history of managing forests to maintain and improve productivity while protecting shared values including recreation, clean water, wildlife and carbon.
According to Reed, in their effort to maintain public access for hunting, fishing and other recreational activities, Green Diamond will continue enrollment in the Montana Fish, Wildlife and Parks (FWP) Block Management Program. "We are excited to welcome Green Diamond Resource Company to Montana," Jim Williams, FWP Regional Supervisor of Kalispell, said in a press release. "We look forward to working together and maintaining a strong cooperative relationship with corporate landowners like Green Diamond that are interested in FWP's Block Management Program and providing public hunting access. We are also encouraged by Green Diamond's past commitments to natural resource management and conservation."
Background information on the acquisition was sent to The Ledger from Dillon Tabish, Regional Information and Education Program Manager for FWP, Region 1. The Thompson River Conservation Easement, which spans to 142,000 acres was part of the Green Diamond Purchase, as well as the Lost Trail Conservation Easement. This easement spans to 7,256 acres and is partially part of the purchase. The proposed Lost Trail Conservation Area, which the U.S. Fish and Wildlife Service accepted public input earlier this year, spans 100,000 acres and features partial sections that also fall within the Green Diamond purchase. Green Diamond will work together with Trust for Public Land (TPL), as they move forward with the completion of these projects. "These projects would ensure access to key recreation areas for area residents and visitors while maintaining working forests," Reed stated.
According to Reed, Green Diamond will also assume terms of the Native Fish Habitat Conservation Plan (HCP), which provides habitat protection for native fish including bull trout, cutthroat and other species. The company operates under similar conservation agreements on other holdings. "Agreements such as the Native Fish HCP provide for long-term stability to manage forests in concert with protection of habitat for sensitive species," Reed said.
"We are proud to achieve a positive outcome for the people of Montana on such a significant portion of our Montana lands, Southern Pine Plantations President Pat Patton said. "We believe Green Diamond will be an excellent long-term steward. We will continue working with The Trust for Public Land with the hope that a majority of our Montana lands might remain working forests and open to the public forever."