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Featured Professional: Chris DeForest, Working Forests and Conservation Easements

Working Forests and Conservation Easements

By: Chris DeForest

As a forester, I know that private forests benefit our community by providing wildlife habitat, protecting watersheds, and supplying timber and other forest products. I am lucky that in my job I am able to contribute to our community by helping conserve private forest land.

Formed in 1991, the Inland Northwest Land Trust (INLT) is a local land trust protecting the region’s natural lands, waters, and working farms and forests for the benefit of wildlife, our community, and future generations. We work in five counties in eastern Washington (Spokane, Lincoln, Pend Oreille, Stevens, and Adams) and two counties in northern Idaho (Kootenai and Bonner). INLT works with landowners to craft conservation easements that meet the needs of the land and the landowner. Once the easement is finalized, INLT enforces the easement restrictions – forever.

In 2006, Inland Northwest Land Trust launched Family Forests Forever to conserve private forest land in eastern Washington and northern Idaho. Since then, INLT has protected 12 private woodlands with conservation easements. Family Forests Forever is supported by the Forestry Extension services of the University of Idaho and Washington State University.

I’ve told you who we are, now let me tell you who we are NOT. We are not a regulatory agency telling you what to do with your land. We are not an environmental group trying to keep you from cutting trees on your property.

INLT does require a forest management plan. The plan provides the flexibility to manage your forest as conditions change. INLT requires that the plan be in place before harvest, that timber harvests be supervised by a professional forester, and that INLT be given advance notice of the timber harvest. The forest management plan specifies the terms of the timber harvest – not INLT. If you already have a forest management plan, donating a conservation easement to INLT will not change how you manage your land.

Donating a conservation easement is your choice. Today you are free to subdivide, strip mine, or sell off all or part of your land – all permanent choices. Without a conservation easement, your heirs are free to make those choices too. Or you can make a permanent choice to keep the land intact and working through a conservation easement. Future owners of the land are bound by the terms of the easement. A conservation easement is a permanent choice. Choose the right land trust for you and your land.

Chris DeForest is Executive Director of Inland Northwest Land Trust, based in Spokane, WA.

To date, INLT has helped protect 59 special places, totaling over 8,000 acres of land and including over 24 miles of river and lake shoreline.

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