Kalispel Tribe Reclaims Historic Lands

Sandpoint, Idaho

In the fall of 2021, William Haberman, managing member of Valiant Idaho, LLC, the owner of The Idaho Club, approached the Kaniksu Land Trust (KLT) about placing a parcel of the company’s land in a conservation agreement, with the goal of protecting the property as open space and natural habitat. The 75-acre Moose Mountain parcel located on the west shore of the Pack River Delta lies within a wildlife travel corridor and sits adjacent to an interconnected system of state and federal lands bordering the Pack River, and it is significantly valuable from a conservation perspective.

Considering that the land would never be commercially developed by The Idaho Club, Haberman suggested donating the land outright to KLT since the organization is in a better position to manage the land for conservation.

However, after many conversations with Ray Entz, the Kalispel Tribe‘s director of wildlife and terrestrial resources, KLT recognized that the tribe had been working to revive their canoe culture but was limited by a lack of suitable access points. Because the parcel was at one time part of the Kalispel Tribe’s native homeland and includes undeveloped access to Pack River, KLT proposed that The Idaho Club gift the parcel to the Tribe instead.

Moose Mountain conservation area with forested mountain peak and valley land alongside Pack River Delta.
Moose Mountain and Pack River Delta. // Photo courtesy Kaniksu Land Trust

On December 27, 2021, the Kalispel Tribe was gifted the Pack River Delta property by The Idaho Club, reclaiming a portion of their traditional homeland, which extends roughly from Plains, Mont., westward along the Clark Fork River to Lake Pend Oreille in Idaho, and west along the Pend Oreille River to the border with Washington.

“KLT is honored to have served as a facilitator in support of this very meaningful gift,” shares Regan Plumb, KLT’s conservation director. “We recognize the value in returning this wild mountainside to its original caretakers.”

Land Trusts across the nation are exploring ways of restoring stewardship and access to culturally significant lands by indigenous tribes. This “Land-back” movement is exemplified by projects such as the Esselen Tribe’s reclamation of 1,199 acres in Monterey County, California, a 3,200-acre land purchase by the Coquille Indian Tribe in Oregon, and the 640-acres in British Columbia that a rancher gifted back to the Esk’etemc First Nation.

For KLT and the Kalispel Tribe, this gift is less about a conservation movement and more about the value of meaningful connections. “There is strength in partnership. We probably wouldn’t have even been aware of the potential of this project if not for our relationship with KLT,” Entz acknowledges.

Sepia-tone photo of traditional Kalispel Tribe canoe and two people sitting inside with fishing rods in the water.
Kalispel Tribe of Indians historical canoe. // Photo courtesy Kaniksu Land Trust.

The Kalispel Tribe’s interest in this special property goes beyond cultural and conservation value. This gift will help to support development of canoe access and an interpretive site on the Pack River. The general public will benefit from use of this site as well, which will provide safer access than the current pull-off at the Highway 200 bridge over the Pack River.

“When we look at a potential land acquisition, we look at it for its different values, like habitat and access. We don’t currently have this kind of access. Most access points are shared with a public boat launch, which isn’t ideal for putting in a canoe,” explains Entz.            

For The Idaho Club and William Haberman, the gift yields satisfying returns, knowing that the land will be valued and cared for forever. “We are pleased to have been presented the opportunity to donate a significant portion of The Idaho Club land holdings to the Kalispel Tribe with the professional guidance and encouragement of Kaniksu Land Trust,” says Haberman. What started as a collaboration with KLT, he adds, “resulted in what we believe will be a ‘best-case’ scenario for the property and critical habitat in and around the Pack River Delta.”

View of the Pack River Delta with the forested Moose Mountain in the distance.
Pack River Delta and Moose Mountain in the distance. // Photo courtesy Kaniksu Land Trust.

Find more stories about the Kalispel Tribe or the Kaniksu Land Trust in the OTO archives.

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