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Local organizations create online guide to living in the Flathead

by KATE HESTON
Daily Inter Lake | January 18, 2024 12:00 AM

Local agencies have teamed up to launch an online resource created to promote responsible living, community connection and sustainable practices for residents, landowners and visitors of the Flathead Valley. 

“How do you care for this place that we all love, so we don’t love it to death?,” asked Constanza von der Pahlen, critical lands program director with the Flathead Lakers, when she spearheaded the effort that resulted in the “Living in the Flathead Guide.”

The idea started two years ago, according to von der Pahlen, when local groups started talking together about creating a resource to expand people’s knowledge of the area, and what it means to exist among nature. 

Western Montana is home to mountain ranges, national and state parks, national forests, clear, cold lakes and abundant wildlife. As the county continues to grow, the “Living in the Flathead Guide” will hopefully help educate people on how to live in harmony with wildlife, protect the watershed and support local communities, von der Pahlen said. 

The guide covers a wide range of topics including guides and resources on living with fire, living by water and living with wildlife. It was compiled by over 20 contributors and organizations. 

“We live in a beautiful place,” said Casey Lewis, the executive director of the Western Montana Conservation Commission. “Northwest Montana is beautiful and has incredible natural resources and many of us live here because of those natural resources. I think this guide is a reminder of why we need to protect and keep clean all of our shared resources.”

Lewis and the commission were among those who contributed to the guide, mainly for the section discussing how to live by water. The guide is important, Lewis said, because it really consolidates why Flathead residents should care about protecting the landscape and its resources. 

The guide, specifically the living by water section, describes the Flathead watershed, talks about invasive aquatic species, has information on septic systems and suggests ways to landscape land with clean water in mind. 

Montana Fish, Wildlife and Parks also partnered with the Flathead Lakers on the creation of the guide, mainly for the section that discusses how to live with wildlife. 

The living with wildlife section covers bear safety, birds and their habitats, keeping wildlife wild and links to more resources on fish, birds and other wildlife found on the northwestern Montana landscape. 

“I hope people use it. You know, that was our main goal and focus: creating a resource that would actually have utility,” said Dillon Tabish, the Region 1 information and education program manager for the state wildlife agency. 

More contributors to the guide include the Whitefish Lake Institute, the state Department of Natural Resources and Conservation, Flathead Audubon, the Confederated Salish and Kootenai Tribes, Discover Kalispell and the Flathead Conservation District, among many others.

“There's a lot to grapple with when you're a landowner in Montana,” said Samantha Tappenbeck, resource conservationist for the Flathead Conservation District.

Like von der Pahlen, Tappenbeck felt encouraged to create an informational resource to give people. Having the online guide complete is a great achievement in that journey. 

Von der Pahlen looks forward to creating booklets or pamphlets of the guide to distribute among the community in the future. 

To view the “Living in the Flathead” guide visit https://www.livinginflathead.org/. 

Reporter Kate Heston can be reached at 758-449 or kheston@dailyinterlake.com.