Montana: Enviros overpay Plum Creek Timber for 100,000 acres of land around Missoula

Below is another example of private profits at the public’s expense. Real market value for these heavily cut over lands with all their deferred reforestation and road maintenance would be closer to a couple hundred dollars an acre rather than the $1600 an acre taxpayers are paying. What these so-called “conservation” groups should be doing  with all their money is funding reasonable private forest regulation efforts in a state that has practically none. Over time this would have a positive affect a much larger acreage, protecting the public instead of swindling them. –Roy Keene from:

Tuesday became a quiet paper-shuffling day, as title to 111,740 acres
of forest in the Seeley, Swan, Lolo and Blackfoot valleys moved from
Plum Creek to the Nature Conservancy and the Trust for Public Lands.
The deal remains a challenging work in progress for the conservation
groups. They’ve already financed the first 130,000-acre phase with
$150 million that’s mostly made of loans against the Nature
Conservancy’s and Trust for Public Lands’ own assets. While the second
phase is covered by $250 million in federal dollars, the land must
pass muster for delivery to the U.S. Forest Service.

The money’s appropriation last fall partially implied that the deal was OK, but the two groups are still gambling that boots-on-the-ground review will back up their good intentions. And the third phase of 70,000 acres in 2010 assumes a deal can be worked out with Montana state agencies that have an interest in some land. The bargain expects the state to pick up about $100 million of the tab, from a variety of pots. The 2009 Legislature is now considering a “Working Forests Initiative” worth about $22 million that would pick up much of the acreage around Potomac.

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Sen. Max Baucus, D-Mont., allocated $250 million in Qualified Forest
Conservation Bonds in last fall’s federal farm bill, making the money
available for the second phase. The Nature Conservancy and the Trust
for Public Lands used it to buy the Plum Creek land. Baucus had
planned to be in Missoula Tuesday to celebrate the title transfer, but
was called away at the last minute to join President Barack Obama for
the signing of the federal stimulus bill in Denver Large chunks of the
acreage will be handed over to the Forest Service to be woven into
existing national forests. The two nonprofits will manage some of it
as timberland, subcontracting with logging companies to supply trees
to Plum Creek mills. The remainder will be sold into private
ownership, but with conservation easements and other strictures to
ensure wildlife habitat and public access are maintained.Most of it is
prime wildlife habitat in corridors that connect the Bob Marshall
Wilderness in the north with the Bitterroot and Sapphire mountains
south of Missoula. “This is a once-in-a-lifetime opportunity to build
on 30 years of conservation,” said Nature Conservancy Northern Rockies
Initiative director Jamie Williams. “We’ve made a bet for Montana’s
future, and we hope to see it through.”

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