The Kaniksu Land Trust

Scalf Ranch Project (Bull River Valley, Montana)

The Kaniksu Land Trust is a not-for-profit organization that promotes healthy lands and healthy communities with the understanding that the two are inextricably linked. We facilitate voluntary land conservation by working with landowners to keep priceless lands intact. We also engage our community with land in order to overcome challenges related to health and education, and to encourage an ethic of long-term stewardship.

We currently have four staff and an active Board of Directors. Our office is located in Sandpoint, but we work throughout the region.

To date we have completed 14 land projects, protecting more than 2,000 acres of land. From the beautiful Bull River Valley to the shores of Morton Slough and the Pend Oreille River, this work is critical to preserving our area’s natural landscapes and resources that contribute to economic security and quality of life. KLT’s conservation programs have far-reaching and long-lasting impacts.

KLT also partners with numerous organizations to promote the health and vitality of the rural communities we serve.  Our Bonner County Park Rx Program, which partners with medical practitioners to prescribe outdoor activity as a treatment for chronic illness, is just one example.  Our k-12 outdoor learning program, which delivers an award winning interdisciplinary science curriculum to hundreds of area school children on a weekly basis is another.

The Kaniksu Land Trust has adopted the Land Trust Alliance’s Standards and Practices to ensure that professional and ethical policies and procedures are applied to all Kaniksu Land Trust transactions and operations and has gone through a rigorous independent accreditation process to ensure that our processes and policies adhere to the highest standards for excellence.

The organization was originally founded in 2002 as the Clark Fork-Pend Oreille Conservancy with the purpose of supporting the land conservation needs of Avista Corporation’s protection, mitigation, and enhancement measures required under the Clark Fork Settlement Agreement issued by the Federal Energy Regulatory Commission in 1999.  Signed by 27 public and private entities, the Settlement Agreement became part of Avista’s federal license to operate the dams at Cabinet Gorge and Noxon Rapids.

During KLT’s formative years, conservation was primarily driven by projects that had high value for fish habitat, specifically for the threatened bull trout, as there was significant funding available as part of Avista’s mitigation work.  Early conservation easements protected properties with frontage along the Bull River (lying in a spectacular scenic valley in northwest Montana), Prospect Creek, Pack River and Twin Creek.  KLT partners closely with Avista’s Natural Resources Department, Idaho Fish & Game, and Montana Fish, Wildlife & Parks for the protection of habitat for various species including waterfowl, moose and the endangered bull trout.

In 2009, KLT expanded its focus to include the protection of forest and ranch lands.  With the closing of the Gold Creek Ranch conservation easement in the Selle Valley, approximately 650 acres of forest and working ranch lands were preserved forever.  Another 600 acres of historic forest and ranch land abutting the Morton Slough Wildlife Refuge on the Pend Oreille River were permanently protected in 2011.

Eric Grace, the organization’s third executive director, was hired in 2011, bringing extensive land trust executive experience to KLT.  During his first year, Eric concentrated his attention on organizational development, community outreach and the development of a fundraising program to establish a sustainable funding base for the organization into the future.

In the summer of 2012, the land trust changed its name and re-branded itself as Kaniksu Land Trust in order to better reflect its regional land and water conservation mission and to provide an identity recognizable to its constituents.

In 2012, KLT again expanded its focus, this time to include public access and recreation. The public benefits directly from the Sherwood Forest / Syringa Trails conservation easement with its access to trails, not far from downtown Sandpoint, for hiking and biking. Since conservation easements do not guarantee that a property will stay open to the public, it is important for visitors to treat the area with respect in order to retain the privilege of using it.

While KLT has recently been focusing on organizational development and community outreach, its expanded mission remains the same:  the preservation of this area’s watersheds, wildlife habitat, forests, farmland, scenic areas, public access to recreation, and the development of programs that address community challenges by connecting people to those places.