In the last minute of shooting light on one of the last days of the 2019 hunting season, I took the opportunity to harvest a mule deer buck outside of Lolo.
This opportunity was made possible by the timber company Weyerhaeuser and its greatly appreciated public access policy. The parcel of land where I was hunting is in the process of being protected in perpetuity, thanks to the Trust for Public Land and the federal Land and Water Conservation Fund, which is providing funds for its acquisition.
Once the purchase is complete, the parcel will be transferred to the U.S. Forest Service as part of the Lolo Trails Landmark Project. This project will conserve over 14,000 acres, maintain public access, and protect natural and historical features.
However, the future of public access to other Weyerhaeuser lands is currently in limbo. Recently, Weyerhaeuser agreed to sell 630,000 acres of timberland in western Montana. It remains to be seen whether the new owner will maintain Weyerhaeuser’s legacy of public access.
Because of LWCF and the Trust for Public Lands’ efforts, however, the area that I was able to access this fall will remain open for public use. The future of access in other areas previously owned by Weyerhaeuser remains uncertain.
This is yet another reason why it is imperative that the LWCF be fully funded so that land managers throughout Montana will have the opportunity and resources to preserve access on the lands on which we rely for hunting, fishing, and other recreation.
Julie Mackiewicz writes from Missoula.