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Fish & Wildlife Habitat: Trout & other wildlife
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County: Shoshone

Year Acquired: 2008

Acreage: 10

Public Access: No

Project Partners: 
  • Trust for Public Lands
  • Potlach Forest Products Corp
  • Palouse Land Trust
Project Summary: 
This project permanently conserves 10 acres of forestland on the St. Joe River.  The highly desirable river frontage property is one of the few remaining places along the St. Joe River between the towns of St. Maries and Avery that hasn't been developed.  Read on below for more about how this property was conserved and how its protection led to the land becoming a family treasure.

Project Goals: 
  • Protect timber and forest resources
  • Protect fish and wildlife habitat, especially for trout
  • Protect natural scenic values and open space, allowing for uninterrupted views for anglers on the St. Joe
While we often focus on how a conservation easement can provide a sense of peace for the landowner who donates one, this is a story about what a conservation easement can do for the next landowner.

For years, Butch and Cyndra Broenneke brought their kids camping and fishing along the St. Joe River.  Those times meant a lot to the family, and when their kids Jason and Michele grew up and started their own families, they wanted to continue the tradition.  Everyone looked forward to these family campouts, but they often found themselves scrambling to find first-come, first-serve campgrounds that could accommodate Butch and Cydra; Jason, his wife Liz and their two kids; and Michele and her husband Steve Barden, and their two kids.  Searching for a better way, they started looking for property on the St. Joe.

The St. Joe River and efforts to protect it
The St. Joe River is considered one of the best West Slope Cutthroat Trout fisheries in northern Idaho.  It's also an incredibly beautiful river that has seen houses and private docks spring up along its banks over the years.  Because of the river's important resources, two nationwide conservation groups - the Trust for Public Land and Trout Unlimited - were interested in protecting some of the few remaining unlogged and undeveloped river frontages on the St. Joe River between the towns of St. Maries and Avery.

The Potlatch Corporation owned land on the St. Joe; one property in particular with a cedar grove and some lovely river frontage.  Recognizing the conservation value of this 10-acre spot, Potlatch held off on logging the property for many years.  In 2008, the Trust for Public Land came forward with the funds to purchase a conservation easement on the property to be held, monitored, and enforced by the local land trust:  Palouse Land Trust.  The Trust for Public Land wanted to protect the scenic values of the property so the public could enjoy the undeveloped river frontage.  The conservation easement allows a modest home to be built, but has setback requirements from the river, and prohibits timber harvest within 75 feet of the river to protect those views.

The conservation easement protected this otherwise highly developable parcel, and with development off the table, brought the price of the land down within reach for a family looking for the perfect gathering place.

The Family
Butch, Cyndra, Steve, Michele, Jason, and Liz bought the property as a family.  Not having one person as the owner was important to them.  "We wanted to avoid a 'this is my land' mentality," Michele says, "so we would be forced to work together and make decisions as a unit."

Each spring the family gets busy planning the campouts.  Liz loves that her kids automatically associate camping with their cousins.  "We'll mention camping and suddenly our three year-old is asking about the kids."

Campouts often include berry picking adventures with Steve stationed with his binoculars on bear patrol, kids running around trying to be helpful by gathering kindling for the fire, and lots of fishing.  "Both our kids got fly vests for Christmas.  Sidney caught her first 16-inch Cutthroat with a fly rod this summer," Steve beams.

The Broennekes and Bardens bought the property hoping their children will own it someday and it will continue to be a place where they can all come together as a family.  "We think the conservation easement is going to be really helpful in the future," Steve mentions.  "It takes certain things off the table that might have been potential areas for disagreement between family members in the future.  Like whether

10-year old Sidney with her catch
to subdivide or not, or how many houses to build.  It's all taken care of already.  We want our land to remain like it is, and this lets us know that it won't be degraded down the line because one of our kids needed some quick cash."

So while the conservation easement will continue to protect scenic views for future generations of anglers along the St. Joe, it will also serve to keep the peace and promote good stewardship for future generations of the Broenneke/Barden family.  "The time we have here is so precious," Liz says.  "There's no cell coverage, no internet; we just get to be together.  It's such a wonderful thing - I cry every time we drive away."