Ancient cedars get a life

  • Arlen Olson and Carla and Steve Laws dwarfed by a cedar

    Bob Tribble photo
  Environmentalists have always said that old-growth trees are worth more alive than logged. Recently, the Forest Service seconded that thought. In October, after five years of negotiations, the agency allowed Idaho sawmill owner Mark Brinkmeyer to swap his 530-acre grove of 1,200-year-old trees at the headwaters of Idaho's Upper Priest Lake for 2,200 acres of national forest.


The ancient trees have risen steadily in value. In 1992, Brinkmeyer paid Plum Creek Timber Co. $2 million for the Western red cedars. These days the timber is valued at $8.7 million. The deal was prolonged by the complexity of the exchange as well as changes in the Forest Service's negotiating team.


By law, the Forest Service had to trade timber land for this high-value tract at a fair-market price. Arlen Olson, an outside facilitator, says publicity surrounding the old-growth cedars probably increased the timber's value, and environmental legislation that slashed Pacific Northwest timber harvests in the early 1990s added to it. Marty Healy, an independent land and timber appraiser, says, "The demand for cedar has been going through the roof."


But this tract can't be measured in dollars, says Dave O'Brien, a Forest Service spokesman. "It's the Mona Lisa of forests," he says. "How a tract like this can be preserved for that long makes it a unique ecosystem. The deal will also preserve wetlands and habitat for rare plants, fish and wildlife."


Environmental groups, timber groups, and both of Idaho's Republican senators applauded the swap. The Forest Service says it plans to manage the grove as a natural conservation area. Still, some observers in Idaho speculate that the cedars never would have been logged and would eventually have been placed in a land trust - a long and costly process. "Thankfully, we'll never know," says Olson. - Sara Phillips





High Country News Classifieds
  • YELLOWSTONE TREASURES: THE TRAVELER'S COMPANION TO THE NATIONAL PARK
    Dreaming of a trip to Yellowstone Park? This book makes you the tour guide for your group! Janet Chapple shares plenty of history anecdotes and...
  • OLIVERBRANCH CONSULTING
    Non-Profit Management Professional specializing in Transitional Leadership, Strategic Collaborations, Communications and Grant Management/Writing.
  • SAGE GROUSE CCAA COORDINATOR
    The Powder Basin Watershed Council, headquartered in Baker City, Oregon, seeks a full-time Sage Grouse CCAA Coordinator. This position is part of a collaborative effort...
  • MARKETING COMMUNICATIONS MANAGER
    High Country News, an award-winning media organization covering the communities and environment of the Western United States, seeks a Marketing Communications Manager to join our...
  • EXECUTIVE DIRECTOR - OKANOGAN LAND TRUST
    Executive Director, Okanogan Land Trust Position Announcement Do you enjoy rural living, wild places, family farms, challenging politics, and big conservation opportunities? Do you have...
  • GREAT VIEWS, SMALL FOOTPRINT
    Close to town but with a secluded feel, this eco-friendly home includes solar panels, a graywater reuse system, tankless hot water, solar tubes, and rainwater...
  • EXECUTIVE DIRECTOR
    Powder River Basin Resource Council, a progressive non-profit conservation organization based in Sheridan, Wyoming, seeks an Executive Director, preferably with grassroots organizing experience, excellent communication...
  • COMMUNITY ORGANIZER- NORTHERN PLAINS RESOURCE COUNCIL
    Organize with Northern Plains Resource Council to protect Montana's water quality, family farms and ranches, & unique quality of life. Starts $35.5k. Apply now- northernplains.org/careers
  • BEAUTIFUL, AUTHENTIC LIVE YULE LOG CENTERPIECE
    - beautiful 12" yule log made from holly wood, live fragrant firs, rich green and white holly, pinecones and red berries. $78 includes shipping. Our...
  • CRAZY HORSE MEMORIAL DIRECTOR OF PROGRAMS FOR THE INDIAN UNIVERSITY OF NORTH AMERICA
    Crazy Horse Memorial, in the Black Hills of South Dakota, is currently accepting applications and nominations for the Director of Programs for The Indian University...
  • CRAZY HORSE MEMORIAL® MANAGER OF RESIDENCE LIFE FOR THE INDIAN UNIVERSITY OF NORTH AMERICA®
    Crazy Horse Memorial is currently accepting applications for the Manager of Residence Life for The Indian University of North America. This position is responsible for...
  • EXECUTIVE DIRECTOR
    Are you an art lover who dreams of living in the mountains? Is fundraising second nature to you? Do you have experience managing creative people?...
  • EXECUTIVE DIRECTOR
    The Public Lands Foundation, a non-profit organization supporting the multiple-use management of public lands managed by the Bureau of Land Management, seeks an experienced leader...
  • COLD WEATHER CRAFTS
    Unique handmade gifts from the Gunnison Valley. Soy lotion candles, jewelry, art, custom photo mandalas and more. Check out the website and buy Christmas locally...
  • EXECUTIVE DIRECTOR
    North Cascades Institute seeks their next Executive Director to lead the organization, manage $4 million operating budget, and oversee 60 staff. Send resume/cover letter to...
  • EDITOR-IN-CHIEF
    High Country News, an award-winning media organization covering the communities and environment of the Western United States, seeks an Editor-In-Chief to join our senior team...
  • LENDER OWNED FIX & FLIP
    2 houses on 37+ acres. Gated subdivision, Penrose Colorado. $400k. Possible lender financing. Bob Kunkler Brokers Welcome.
  • HISTORIC LODGE AND RESTAURANT - FULLY EQUIPPED
    Built in 1901, The Crazy Mountain Inn has 11 guest rooms in a town-center building on 7 city lots (.58 acres). The inn and restaurant...
  • POLLINATOR OASIS
    Seeking an experienced, hardworking partner to help restore a desert watershed/wetland while also creating a pollinator oasis at the mouth of an upland canyon. Compensation:...
  • ELLIE SAYS IT'S SAFE! A GUIDE DOG'S JOURNEY THROUGH LIFE
    by Don Hagedorn. A story of how lives of the visually impaired are improved through the love and courage of guide dogs. Available on Amazon.