SPOKANE, Wash. — The Coeur d' Alene Tribe purchased a 48-acre parcel of land located in Spokane County, planning to enhance it for ecological value in a way that promotes the return of salmon.
The Pilcher property holds 48 of the 150 acres of agricultural zone land within Spokane city limits, and it is located near the intersection of Highway 195 and I-90. The property is one of the last undeveloped stretches of Hangman Creek within Spokane County and was previously owned by JRP Land LLC.
The purchase of the land came after a 'tug-of-war' as the property received conditional approval to sub-divide the property into 96 separate lots for a potential housing development, which raised public concerns about traffic safety along Highway 195, and the potential harm to ecological function along the creek, the Coeur d'Alene Tribe said in a press release.
Previous plans for the property were to create a new district center, more homes and additional commercial establishments on a 98-acre property in Latah Valley, right by the highway.
"In January 2021, the Tribe was asked to step in, in a final push to save the historical integrity and ecosystem functionality of this essential habitat from becoming another residential development project," according to the press release.
Coeur d’Alene Tribal Chairman Chief Allan said the area better known to the Tribe as qu’yu, which means 'place where Oregon grape grows', represents “an important opportunity for the Tribe to reestablish a presence in our aboriginal territory," Allan said. "[It] has a connection to our people, as old as time.”
According to historical records, the area around the Pilcher property would have been used for both the Coeur d’Alene and Spokane Tribes as a salmon camp or village during the summer and fall months.
The village was situated on Latah Creek about a mile above the point where the highway now crosses the creek. The land provided a valued place with salmon and trout fishing grounds, abundant game, including deer, antelope and beaver, according to the Tribe.
The Tribe plans to enhance the property’s ecological value in a way that promotes the return of salmon, and possibly develop partnership with the community focusing in preservation, restoration and access to the area.
“This property will provide a unique opportunity for the Tribe to carry the message of salmon restoration further downstream in Hangman Creek and across the state line in to Washington," Tribal Natural Resources Director Caj Matheson said. "The Coeur d’Alene Tribe is pleased to be returning to its aboriginal territory and waterways; [our focus] is, and will always be, on returning salmon to these waterways and all of the different ways that can be achieved.”