COEUR D'ALENE, Idaho — Eighty-eight acres of Cougar Bay property will remain development-free and open to the public for generations to come following an acquisition by the Bureau of Land Management.
The $1.6 million purchase announced Tuesday is part of a three-year effort by the agency, public affairs specialist Suzanne Endsley said.
Located on the west side of Lake Coeur d'Alene, Cougar Bay has experienced increasing interest in recreation and property development. Around the lake, over 80% of the shore area is now privately owned, Endsley said.
"One of our goals is retaining public access to Lake Coeur d'Alene and Cougar Bay," Endsley said. "So it is important to keep that area undeveloped, available for recreation accessibility and preserve the diverse wildlife habitat it provides."
Kurt Pindel, the bureau's Coeur d'Alene district manager, said the acquisition would benefit a wetlands restoration project beginning this fall with Ducks Unlimited. The project will remove overgrown reed canary grass, an invasive species, from the wetlands off U.S. 95 that has impacted water dispersal.
"The area provides for larger wildlife like moose, elk and deer as well as nesting habitat for birds like osprey," Endsley said. "It is a critical area for those species to survive and the fisheries nearby, too."
Adjacent to the newly acquired land is the 155-acre John C. Pointer Memorial Wildlife Sanctuary, comanaged by the bureau and The Nature Conservatory for several years. Constructed in 2014, the MWS honors Pointer's efforts to preserve Cougar Bay and features over 1.2 miles of hiking trails.
"Cougar Bay is a real gem," Endsley said. "There are very few places on Lake Coeur d'Alene that have public access. The alternative, and you can see it happening all around us, is a potential private development of the whole area."
The Nature Conservatory is a global organization dedicated to conservation management efforts. Before the acquisition, the Conservatory owned the 88-acre Cougar Bay property.
"Both entities recognize this is such a unique area for wildlife use," Endsley said. "It is also a place for people to be able to have peace, solitude, go on a hike or do something on the lake."
Partnership on land management projects in Cougar Bay with the Conservatory dates back to the early 2000s, Endsley said
"This next step in our partnership with BLM ensures sensitive lakefront wildlife habitat will remain undeveloped while continuing to offer recreational opportunities for the community," Conservatory Deputy Director Robyn Miller said.
The $1.6 million acquisition comes from the U.S. Department of the Interior Land and Water Management Fund State Grants program. The LWCF supports state and tribal government initiatives that protect lands, secure public access, improve recreational opportunities and preserve ecosystems. According to the DOI website, $3.9 billion in grants have funded over 42,000 projects across the nation since 1965.
Endsley said that the Cougar Bay purchase also directly aligns with the Biden Administration's America the Beautiful initiative.