Saturday, January 28, 2023

Development threatens elk

| December 28, 2022 7:05 AM

Last Saturday I had a problem – a big 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. If we went outside to shovel snow we would disturb them. If we tried to drive out to go to town, likewise. What an amazing dilemma! 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.

Then, as inevitably happens, word got out they were around and cars started driving in on our private road to see the elk. The animals 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, all the way south nearly to Kelley Road off of Highway 206. This includes part of the 49 acres owned by River Highlands who has submitted a new subdivision proposal for 343 units including 9 apartment buildings, 98 row houses, and 83 single-family homes, plus a club house. The elk need their space.

On Friday, December 16, our Upper Flathead Neighborhood Association Board of Directors met with representatives of Location Ventures, the group that is planning 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 the fields on the north side of the Highway.

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 100-200 feet right 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, in the 49 acres along River Road, is approved, if Location Ventures builds high density housing in 22 acres along Highway 2, the corridor will be effectively blocked.

No more will we surprised and awed by the elk or the deer in our backyard.

They need their space.

It’s not just our enjoyment that will be diminished, but our quality of life and 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

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