The largest freshwater lake west of the Mississippi River, majestic mountains, rural landscapes, clean water, native fish and wildlife, all these converge to make the Flathead Watershed a special place – and those very qualities that make it special are a magnet for population growth.
Numerous polls have shown that people who live in the Flathead appreciate its scenic landscapes, clean water, and hunting, fishing, boating, hiking and numerous other outdoor recreational opportunities. These are the very same qualities that attract visitors and new residents, and play a significant role in the vitality of the Flathead’s economy.
The Flathead Watershed is one of the fastest growing areas in the state. From 1990 to 2000 Lake County and Flathead County grew by about 26% while the state population as a whole grew by about 13%. From 2000 to 2009 it is estimated that Flathead County grew by 20% and Lake County by 8%.
Changes in land use can degrade water quality by increasing polluted runoff, also known as nonpoint source pollution. Without adequate safeguards and sound planning, rapid growth and inappropriate development in critical areas jeopardize clean water, wildlife habitat and quality of life.
The problem our communities face is how to accommodate growth and provide economic opportunities while maintaining the quality of life we now enjoy and new residents expect.
Land use planning and its many tools can help communities guide growth and development while protecting clean water and other important resources and community values. Planning is a way for communities to examine an array of land use and development choices and their consequences, determine goals, and take action to achieve those goals.
In the absence of planning, land use decisions are made haphazardly or by default, which can result in unforeseen consequences and inadvertent damage to water quality and other resources as well as economic vitality and quality of life.
Planning for growth can help put safeguards in place that will protect water quality by protecting aquifer recharge areas, wetlands, and riparian areas along streams, rivers and lakes. The Flathead Lakers encourages members and citizens to participate in local planning processes to help protect water quality.
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