Manage Public Lands in a Sustainable, Collaborative Way

The forest has taken leadership by listening to the needs and wishes of the community

By Will Hammerquist

As the owner of a small business in one of the most remote locations in Montana, my livelihood depends on public lands. And I’m not the only one who has a stake in these places – that was clear when over 30 groups came together five years ago to collaborate about the management of the Whitefish Range on the Flathead National Forest. I’m glad to say that the Flathead National Forest’s most recent revision of their management plan largely adopts the recommendations of the Whitefish Range Partnership.

The forest has taken leadership by listening to the needs and wishes of the community, and I hope that our elected decision makers will do the same. The Whitefish Range Partnership, the Kootenai Forest Stakeholders Coalition, and the Blackfoot Clearwater Stewardship Act are all shining examples of what is possible when community members sit down at the table and find common ground solutions in land management. We need to look for answers from the people who know the land best, and within the communities that will feel the outcomes the most.

Last year, my business, the Polebridge Mercantile, served over 50,000 people. As the outdoor tourism industry continues to grow, we need to plan for visitor use across public lands in a sustainable, collaborative way. One example is the recent Federal Lands Access Program grant that will improve public safety and access from the Polebridge river access site to the Canadian border. The U.S. Border Patrol, Glacier National Park, U.S. Forest Service and Flathead County all worked together to make this project a reality. I would like to thank the public agencies and their employees for being great partners.

Will Hammerquist