3,000 Acres Near Whitefish Moves Towards Easement - ABC FOX MONTANA NEWS, WEATHER, SPORTS - KTMF/KWYB

3,000 Acres Near Whitefish Moves Towards Easement

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WHITEFISH -

About 3,000 acres near Whitefish topped the US Forest Service's list of conservation projects through the Forest Legacy Program.

This also happens to be the same land where Whitefish gets nearly three-quarters of its water supply.

F. H. Stoltze has owned the land that makes up the Haskill Basin for more than 100 years.

During that time it has been used to harvest timber, provide drinking water for Whitefish, and just for fun. That sort of unspoken agreement is going to be set in stone.

With about $7 million dollars from the US Forest Service, they're looking to buy a conservation easement around this time next year.

"It's a hard decision to decide to do that because you make a commitment as the landowner that you're not going to subdivide," said Chuck Roady, the vice president and general manager of F. H. Stoltze, "That you're not going to commercialize that property."

The land butts right up against some high end subdivisions like Iron Horse and Lookout Estates as well as Whitefish Mountain Resort.

"A week doesn't go by I don't get a call of somebody that doesn't want to do something there," said Roady.

This would probably put an end to those kinds of calls.

It would be up to F. H. Stoltze to keep managing the land not just in terms of the trees, but also looking out for the endangered animals that live here like grizzly bears.

Montana's FWP would make sure the easement is being followed.

"We knew it would likely be ranked high, but you never quite know that it's going to be the topped ranked one in the country so we're pretty proud and honored," said Roady.

"It would be hard to find another conservation project in the country that has such incredible importance on so many different levels," said Deb Love, the Northern Rockies director of the Trust for Public Land.

Of the 44 ranked projects, Haskill Basin is asking for the most money.

Since its at the top of the list, and the program starts giving money out at the top, the requested $7 million is pretty close to a sure thing.

Coming up second on the Forest Service's list is Hall Mountain over in Idaho. They're asking for $2.7 million.

Montana's Clear Creek Conservation made the list at number 37, asking for just over $500,000.

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