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Year Acquired: 2008
Public Access: No
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.
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.
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."