Caption: Black Lake property recently acquired by Idaho Fish and Game.
Idaho hunters and anglers gained permanent access to 12,600 acres of land in north Idaho for a net cost of about $300,000 thanks to three different land deals recently completed by Idaho Fish and Game.
Here’s what they entailed:
• Fish and Game sold 1,400 acres of timberland from its St. Maries Wildlife Management Area to Idaho Department of Lands for $4.32 million. The land is adjacent to existing state-owned timberland and managed for timber production, but will remain open to the public.
• Fish and Game used that money to buy a private 1,100-acre parcel for $2.6 million near Black Lake along the Coeur d’Alene River. The 1,100 acres will connect two parcels currently owned by Fish and Game and adds 5 miles of river frontage and public access in the Coeur d’Alene River Wildlife Management Area.
• Fish and Game also contributed $2 million to pay for a multi-party Forest Legacy Conservation Easement that conserves 13,169 acres of commercial timberland owned by Stimson Lumber Company for continued timber management and wildlife habitat while opening 10,113 acres for public access. The property known as “Clagstone Meadows” is located in south Bonner County, just off U.S. 95 between Coeur d’Alene and Sandpoint.
The Black Lake property will add to the existing Coeur d'Alene Wildlife Management Area and provide new public access to the area. Last year, Fish and Game also acquired an additional 385 acres of wetlands and riparian habitats to WMA connecting the Black Rock Slough wetland complex near Bull Run Lake.
“With those purchases, we’ve got linkages across the whole Coeur d’Alene River from the mouth to Rose Lake for wildlife and sportsmen, and that was our goal,” F&G habitat/lands manager James “JJ” Teare said.
Caption: Moose at Black Lake on the Coeur d'Alene Wildlife Management Area
All total, the WMA now encompasses 20 miles of river corridor and 9,000 acres of land, much of it wetlands and riparian areas with some adjacent timber and shrub lands The new lands will provide lots of additional public access to the area, which has the popular Trail of the Coeur d’Alenes biking/hiking trail running through its entirety, but otherwise limited access except by watercraft.
“We want people to go out and enjoy the area,” Teare said. “It’s a very scenic and big recreation area with a tremendous amount of wildlife and other natural resources.”
The Black Lake property is currently pasture land with long lengths of vinyl fencing. One of the first projects will be removing fencing from the property, and then establishing public parking areas and signs.
“We will get those done this summer,” Teare said.
There’s a long list of other projects planned, including habitat restoration and environmental cleanup from past mining operations upstream in the Silver Valley.
“We’re really excited about all the new properties and public access,” Teare said. “There’s going to be a ton of work, but it’s work we love to do.”
The public access to Clagstone Meadows is scheduled to open on Aug. 1. By then, there will be parking areas built and signage providing maps and outlining the access conditions of the property.
Caption: Aerial shot of Clagstone Meadows.
Teare said people can expect walk-in access via the parking areas and no camping. People will also have to register at entry points. User registration will be important for helping Fish and Game and Stimson managers ensure public use provided does not interfere with timber management or habitat protections.
Because the property remains in private ownership, and it’s commercial timberland, Teare said visitors can expect to see company vehicles on the property for logging and other timber-management projects. However, Stimson employees are not allowed to recreate while working or driving company vehicles.
This new public access will open up more than 10,000 acres to year round non-motorized recreation and public hunting. Clagstone Meadows has forests, fields, wetlands, ponds, and provides habitat for elk, deer, black bear, moose, mountain lion and bobcat and more. It's prime white-tailed deer habitat, Teare said.
Teare pointed out that sportsmen and women are getting a lot for their money because the conservation easement and access is permanent, even if the land is sold.
“This is public access, continued wildlife habitat and timber management of the property is forever,” he said.
St. Maries property
Although Fish and Game sold the St. Maries property to Idaho Department of Lands, it will remain open to the public for hunting and other recreation, according to IDL public information officer Emily Callihan.
“There may be temporary closures for public safety reasons if timber harvesting operations are active, but generally, the lands will be open for access,” she said.