Whitefish School Trust Lands Neighborhood Plan Meets Ten Year Goal

The Whitefish City Council approved a resolution on Monday, December 1, 2014 to extend the Whitefish Area Trust Lands Neighborhood Plan through 2024. Declaring the successful completion of the first ten years of the plan, the City joined Whitefish Legacy Partners in celebrating the permanent protection of over 3,000 acres.

The Whitefish Area Neighborhood land-use plan was approved in November 2004 for the 13,000-plus acres of State Trust Land surrounding the City of Whitefish. The Plan defines future land uses for Trust Lands that support clean water, quality wildlife habitat, viewshed protection, and high quality public recreation access.

The Department of Natural Resources and Conservation, the City of Whitefish, Whitefish Legacy Partners (WLP) and other community partners have exceeded the Neighborhood Plan’s ten year target goal.  Recreation and conservation efforts have permanently protected 3,000+ acres generating over $12 million dollars in gross revenue for the schools and universities of Montana.

The permanent protection on these 3,000 acres involved a variety of projects including land exchanges, a land bank, a public recreation use easement, a neighborhood septic project, and developed recreation. Additionally, a variety of shorter-term projects were initiated including trail planning, design and construction, land use licenses, a special recreation use license, timber sales, and forestry Jumpstart projects. WLP has spearheaded the community-driven initiatives for conservation, recreation and education in partnership with many individuals, groups and agencies.

Steve Thompson, Board Secretary of WLP, commented, “We have come a long way since the community rallied to voice their concerns about access and development on lands surrounding Whitefish in May of 2003. We have now protected over 3,000 acres of land and ensured permanent public access and recreation for generations to come.”

Mayor John Muhlfeld, members from the Neighborhood Planning Committee and WLP’s Board of Directors will be traveling to Helena on December 15th, 2015 to present to the Montana Board of State Land Commissioners a ten year assessment and progress report, and formalize the extension of the Whitefish Area Plan for another ten years.

Heidi Van Everen, Executive Director of Whitefish Legacy Partners explains, “The extended sequencing plan will allow the parties to pursue projects that meet the spirit and intent of the Neighborhood Plan providing increased revenue for the beneficiaries of the school trusts while maintaining the economic, environmental, recreational and cultural vitality of Whitefish and the surrounding areas.”

The Whitefish Neighborhood Plan has clearly proven to be a win-win-win collaborative effort that supports conservation, education and recreation and boosts the local economy. The community will now have ten more years to influence future projects and continue to develop innovative solutions to create community-driven initiatives.

For more information or to make a donation to support the next ten years, visit www.whitefishlegacy.org or call 406.862.3880.