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Dark Sky Reserve Idaho

This June 2016 photo provided by Nils Ribi Photography shows the Milky Way in the night sky at the foot of the Boulder Mountains in the Sawtooth National Recreation Area, Idaho. 

A deal between timber companies and the Idaho Department of Fish and Game opens up almost a million acres of wild country in the northern part of the state, including areas bordering Montana.

PotlatchDeltic Corp. agreed to leases with the state to preserve public access for hunting, fishing and trapping on 567,002 acres of private land in Benewah, Clearwater, Idaho, Latah and Shoshone counties, which extend from the Panhandle to Montana's southwestern border with Idaho.

In a separate deal expected to close in early June, a consortium of Stimson Lumber Co., Hancock Forest Management and Molpus Woodlands Group provides public access to more than 300,000 acres in Bonner, Boundary, Benewah, Shoshone and Kootenai counties.

The access also permits wildlife viewing, hiking and recreational motorized travel on roads open to full-sized vehicles. Some areas are also open to camping and ATV use, according to landowner rules.

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Idaho Department of Fish and Game private lands/farm bill coordinator Sal Palazzolo said the state funds came from an access/depredation fee charged on purchases of annual sporting licenses of $5 per resident and $10 per nonresident. The money also helps compensate landowners for the public activity, Palazzolo said, including $300,000 annually for law enforcement services on endowment lands.

The state is paying $1 per acre per year for the leases. The leases automatically renew for at least three years.

For more information about the specifics of the PotlatchDeltic agreement, contact Idaho Fish and Game's Private Lands/ Farm Bill Program Coordinator Sal Palazzolo at sal.palazzolo@idfg.idaho.gov, or call 208-287-2752.

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