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Montana timberland sale sparks fears of future public access
KALISPELL, Mont. (From news reports) -- Montana officials are worried that the sale of hundreds of thousands of acres of timberland may eventually close off the public access that previous owners have allowed, despite assurances from the buyer that no such changes are planned.

Washington-based timber giant Weyerhaeuser is selling its 630,000 acres in Montana to Georgia-based Southern Pine Plantations for $145 million. That deal, expected to be closed later this year, has legislators, industry observers and outdoor recreation advocates concerned about the future of timber production and the access now granted to hunters, anglers and others, the Flathead Beacon reported.

The uncertainty is centered on speculation that Southern Pine Plantations might turn around and sell the timberland for development. State Rep. Steve Gunderson, R-Libby, urged the state Environmental Quality Council to advocate for a solution to prevent that from happening.

"What we do not know about Southern Pine Plantations' plans is whether it even plans to keep the lands, and if it doesn't, who is in line to be the next purchaser or purchasers?" Gunderson said.

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