‘Gem’ of Cougar Bay preserved
Eighty-eight acres of Cougar Bay property will remain undeveloped and open to the public for generations to come following an acquisition by the Bureau of Land Management.
The $ 1.6 million purchase announced on Tuesday is part of a three-year effort by the agency, public affairs specialist Suzanne Endsley said.
Located on the western shore of Lac Coeur d’Alene, Cougar Bay has seen a growing interest in recreation and real estate development. Around the lake, more than 80% of the riparian area is now privately owned, Endsley said.
“One of our goals is to maintain public access to Lac Coeur d’Alene and Cougar Bay,” Endsley said. “It is therefore important to keep this undeveloped area, available for accessibility to recreation and to preserve the diverse wildlife habitat it offers.”
Kurt Pindel, the Coeur d’Alene district director of the office, said the acquisition would benefit a wetland restoration project starting this fall with Ducks Unlimited. The project will remove the overgrown reed canarygrass, an invasive species, from wetlands off the United States 95 that has impacted water dispersal.
“The area is home to larger wildlife like moose, elk and deer, as well as nesting habitat for birds like osprey,” Endsley said. “It is a critical area for the survival of these species and nearby fisheries as well.”
Adjacent to the newly acquired land is the 155-acre John C. Pointer Memorial Wildlife Sanctuary, co-managed by the office and The Nature Conservatory for several years. Built in 2014, the MWS honors Pointer’s efforts to preserve Cougar Bay and offers over 2 km of hiking trails.
“Cougar Bay is a real gem,” Endsley said. “There are very few places on Lac Coeur d’Alene that have public access. The alternative, and you can see it happening all around us, is potential private development of the whole region.”
The Conservatory of Nature is a global organization dedicated to conservation management efforts. Prior to the acquisition, the Conservatory owned the 88-acre Cougar Bay property.
“Both entities recognize that this is a unique area for the use of wildlife,” Endsley said. “It is also a place where people can have peace, solitude, take a hike or do something on the lake.”
The 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 that sensitive lakeside wildlife habitat will remain underdeveloped while continuing to provide recreational opportunities for the community,” said Conservatory Deputy Director Robyn Miller.
The $ 1.6 million acquisition is from the U.S. Department of the Interior’s Land and Water Management Fund state grant program. The LWCF supports state and tribal government initiatives that protect land, secure public access, improve recreational opportunities, and preserve ecosystems. According to the DOI website, $ 3.9 billion in grants have funded more than 42,000 projects across the country since 1965.
Endsley said the Cougar Bay purchase also aligns directly with the Biden administration’s America the Beautiful initiative.