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KLT works to connect community to the land

by MARCY TIMBLIN Contributing Writer
| March 31, 2021 1:00 AM

SANDPOINT — With a focus on community response, Kaniksu Land Trust has stretched to find new and creative methods to connect people with the land and address the unique needs of our local communities during the challenging times of this last year. Thanks to the steady hand of our friends and supporters, we filled a year unlike any other with meaningful new programs supported by our vital local partnerships, clearly demonstrating that Kaniksu is not your average land trust.   

Pine Street Woods, KLT’s community forest property located near Sandpoint, was a bright light for our community over the course of the year. We estimate that the property received roughly 20,000 visits during 2020, including hikers, bikers, skiers and nature lovers from near and far.

“I credit my trips to PSW as critical to my overall health and sustainability during this pandemic. I am ever grateful to have PSW so accessible.”  -PSW visitor.

If you were one of those visitors to Pine Street Woods, you may have noticed that there were plenty of other happenings on the property too, beginning with the March windstorm that uprooted hundreds of trees. KLT seized on this “windfall” as an opportunity to purchase a portable sawmill in partnership with Bonner Soil and Water Conservation District with the objective of developing a more community-centered approach to forest management. KLT volunteers have already begun milling custom wood products for educational and building projects, as evidenced by the beautiful new volunteer-built outhouse at Pine Street Woods! 

KLT strives to manage the property in a thoughtful and sustainable fashion that serves the interests of the community, the health of the land, and the well-being of the wild things that call it home. To this end, KLT launched restoration efforts in 2020 that focused on the PSW meadow with the intention of discouraging noxious weeds, eliminating brush piles, and maintaining this as an opening in the forest for purposes of user safety and security, scenic views, wildlife habitat, and fire safety. Generous support from organizations including the Avista Foundation, Equinox Foundation, and Kalispel Tribe allowed us to employ a targeted rotational grazing program to control weeds, burn slash piles in the meadow, and overseed the area with grasses and clover to replenish depleted soils. It will take time to see this area transformed, but we dream of a lush and weed-free meadow where we can all romp and play while soaking up mountain views.

Education is another essential element of KLT's missional work that was deeply impacted in 2020. In recent years, KLT has grown its youth programs to include Camp Kaniksu in summer and winter, and outdoor education programs with local schools. The pandemic put a stop to our in-school visits and after school programs beginning last spring, but KLT’s summer camps were able to be conducted with safety protocols in place, serving a record number of children, and we adapted new programs to fill the gaps. Food is an essential element in our kids programs and with the help of the Herbert D. McAvoy Fund from the Idaho Community Foundation, we were able to build a camp kitchen at Pine Street Woods. This will serve as a space for children to learn about food preparation and make tasty treats during their programs.

Meanwhile, the University of Idaho facilitated an ingenious partnership between KLT, Lake Pend Oreille School District, and Colorado College to bring permanent outdoor classrooms to Bonner County schools. Students from the Integrative Design and Architecture program at Colorado College designed outdoor classrooms for Farmin-Stidewell and Washington Elementary as part of a studio experience in their college classes. With research on our local area and input from LPOSD staff and students, they presented conceptual designs to blend with the landscape and surrounding grounds. We look forward to the next phase of this project.

As we look to the next year, we have no plans to slow down in our efforts to conserve lands, connect people, and care for the communities we serve. We are actively working on six exciting new conservation projects that will collectively save thousands of acres of open space, and every one of them includes a public access component.

In the coming years, we will continue to focus on making Pine Street Woods a favorite place to hike, walk, run, ski, bike, and recharge your batteries. We will invite more of you to join us outdoors through guided walks on protected lands and through the offerings of our amazing partners Pend Oreille Pedalers and Sandpoint Nordic Club.

We will serve our schools more deeply than ever through new innovative programs and by growing the number of talented staff dedicated to outdoor education.

We launched Kaniksu Folk School, and will continue to enrich lives and foster an ethic of stewardship through the sharing of traditional crafts and music, bringing inspiring new learning opportunities to adults.

We are strengthening our presence in Sanders County, Montana; another sector of the Kaniksu Region that KLT serves.

We will finalize a strategic conservation plan to elevate our land protection efforts and will continue to work with private landowners who wish to voluntarily conserve working farms and ranches, healthy forests, clean water, scenic views, and recreational opportunities for future generations.

We will support local farmers and food insecure residents by helping to bring more delicious locally grown food to the tables of those who need it most.

We will continue to innovate in our efforts to care for the land and people of the Kaniksu Region, today, tomorrow, and forever.