The 2.2 million acre Kootenai National Forest is a special place: strikingly beautiful, biologically rich, and a little bit mysterious. Well off the beaten path, many Montanans know as much about Idaho or Alberta as they know about this area in the far northwest corner of the state. It’s home to clear rivers, big trees and wild weather that drops up to 100 inches of rain every year. Some call it an inland rainforest.
Communities like Libby, Noxon, and Trout Creek have long relied on the mining industry operating on surrounding public lands. Traditionally, the Kootenai was known as the timber basket of Montana. These days, however, timber production is down significantly.
Now, both the land and the communities are in need of new solutions.
Montanans know that by working together, we can manage our forests, provide jobs for struggling rural communities, and conserve and restore key wildlife habitat and blue ribbon headwaters. Seven years ago, that’s exactly what the Kootenai Forest Stakeholders Coalition set out to do. Business owners, local elected officials, and community members began working to find community-based common ground that will provide jobs in the front country while protecting the solitude of the backcountry.
In late 2015, the Kootenai Stakeholders agreed to a forest-wide proposal that establishes guidelines for timber management, creates areas for motorized and non-motorized recreation, and designates 180,000 acres of new wilderness.