Only minutes from downtown Coeur d’ Alene, Cougar Bay is the Nature Conservancy of Idaho’s most recent preserve.
This wetland complex adjoins one of the world’s beautiful mountain lakes, and has become a pet project for the residents of the fast growing north Idaho community.
In 1998 TNC acquired 88 acres from Crown Pacific. The Portland-based timber company sold the land to TNC at a bargain sale price.
"This is beautiful," says Ed Haglund, a Foss Maritime tugboat operator and resident of Coeur d’ Alene. "Ten years from now people will be thanking us that we had the foresight to purchase this property. Twelve hundred feet of undeveloped lake front property is just not in existence anymore. More people are moving in, with more construction. There just won’t be places like this anymore."
"The Nature Conservancy folks are just good people," says Haglund. "Their heart’s in the right place. If they want something, they just purchase it. That’s the way it should be."
Gretchen Piper has worked as a field representative for The Nature Conservancy of Idaho, and was instrumental in procuring Cougar Bay.
"I liked the idea of finding a solution and working with people to find something that everybody liked. One of the most rewarding aspects of working with TNC is being able to come to the table and have folks recognize you’re there to work out a solution that everybody can live with."
"This is a really good example of The Nature Conservancy’s work in action. We had identified Cougar Bay as an important habitat to preserve, primarily because of the bird population. And this property was owned by Crown Pacific, which had a plan for identifying and preserving property like this. And that was our goal, too. So we were able to work with the timber company to negotiate a substantially discounted price that enabled us to buy it."
"Wetlands are the main natural source of purifying polluted water," says wildlife biologist KJ Hackworthy; "and one of the Nature Conservancy’s primary targets is to preserve water. And Cougar Bay also has the birding value. In a small amount of area, you have a huge diversity of birds. You have the wetland habitat, where all the waterfowl reside; and you have the upland habitat, the forested area above the bay, where the song birds live…To date, we’ve identified 146 species of bird, and 28 of them are rare birds, ones protected federally or by the State."
"I envision this as being a place where folks will come with guests to picnic," says Gretchen Piper. "It’s a nice spot to spend the afternoon with your family. As this area grows – and Kootenai County is one of fastest growing counties in the state—I think it’s important to set some area aside, especially since it’s only three minutes from Coeur d’ alene. Clearly the folks in Coeur d’ Alene think the same thing, because it’s gotten a lot of support."
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