The Elk Need Their Space

It is obvious wildlife are using, and have been using for many years, all of the lowland area east of Columbia Falls

By Shirley Folkwein

Recently, I had a problem, not just anyone’s problem! There were 115 head of elk in the fields southwest of my house. Some of these majestic animals were as close as 30 yards from my house and even closer to my sister’s house. They were spread out across our road that comes in from Highway 206. So, we stayed put, spending a considerable amount of our day going from window to window to observe as they pawed through the snow for food and eventually bedded down for the afternoon. When cars started driving in on our private road to see the elk they were quickly on alert, on their feet, and immediately headed north over the hill and across Rogers Road, seeking safer environs. They need their space!

These elk have been hanging in the neighborhood since the middle of December, sometimes a herd of 30, sometimes 50, and now 115! It truly is a sight to see, and we are so fortunate to have this privilege in our neighborhood. When I say “neighborhood,” I mean the open fields east of Columbia Falls and the Flathead River, along River Road, south and north of Highway 2, and the bench above Rogers Road. This includes part of the 49 acres owned by River Highlands, which has submitted a new subdivision proposal for 343 units, including nine apartment buildings, 98 row houses, and 83 single-family homes, plus a clubhouse. The elk need their space.

On December 16, our Upper Flathead Neighborhood Association Board of Directors met with representatives of Location Ventures to hear of their plans for a high-density subdivision on the 22 acres on the north side of Highway 2 east of the river. That very morning traffic came to a stop on Highway 2 as elk crossed from the south into those fields. Later that evening, the elk were still there. The elk need their space.

These observations are important because they confirm the wildlife corridor is not just 100 to 200 feet wide along the river. It is obvious wildlife are using, and have been using for many years, all of the lowland area east of Columbia Falls between the river and Columbia Heights. My family has observed, and has records of, the wildlife movement in this area for more than 30 years. If River Highlands, on the 49 acres along River Road, is approved, if Location Ventures builds high density housing on 22 acres along Highway 2, the corridor will be effectively blocked. No more will we be surprised and awed by the elk or the deer in our neighborhood. They need their space. It’s not just our enjoyment that will be diminished, but our quality of life. The health and well-being of all of the natural world in our neighborhood and beyond, will be lost forever. We all need our space.

Shirley Folkwein
Columbia Falls