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 important 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 six professional staff and an active Board of Directors, and were recognized as an accredited land trust in February of 2016. Our office is located in Sandpoint, but we work throughout the region.

To date we have completed 19 land projects, protecting nearly 3,000 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.  Another is our k-12 outdoor learning program, which delivers an award winning interdisciplinary science curriculum to hundreds of area school children on a weekly basis.

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 which are required under the Clark Fork Settlement Agreement.  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.  Early conservation easements protected properties with frontage along the Bull River, Prospect Creek, Pack River and Twin Creek.  KLT partners closely with Avista’s Natural Resources Department, Idaho Department of Fish & Game, and Montana Fish, Wildlife & Parks for the protection of habitat for various species including waterfowl, moose and the threatened 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 640 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 which provides access to hiking and biking trails convenient to downtown Sandpoint. 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: KLT is committed to supporting the vibrant communities of north Idaho and northwest Montana, and preserving the lands and waters that sustain them.