Smith Lake Legacy

Protecting Smith Lake Forever

Smith Lake is sandwiched between residential development on Whitefish Lake and the steep, rugged slopes of the Whitefish Range. With flat benches and expansive views, Smith Lake offers some of the highest development potential of any DNRC lands around Whitefish. In the future, DNRC could sell this land and transfer access and ownership from the public to the highest bidder, further fragmenting wildlife habitat. Luckily, however, the community has bigger plans. We envision an outdoor classroom where local school groups can learn the value of water resources and wildlife protection. Instead of houses lining the shores of Smith Lake, we see grandfathers baiting hooks for giggling grandchildren, laying the building blocks for a lifetime in outdoor recreation.

The proposed 480 acres of conservation at Smith Lake include a permanent trail easement for the Whitefish Trail, ensuring public access in perpetuity. The landscape also provides vital habitat and seasonal migration corridors for large mammals including mountain lion, black and grizzly bear, mule deer, and rocky mountain elk. The proposed conservation would also support local timber jobs with continued forest management.

The proposed Public Recreation Use Easement at Smith Lake would generate approximately $3.5 million in funding to the State’s Permanent Education Fund and would generate $140,000 in interest revenue per year FOREVER. Securing Smith Lake’s Legacy is a win for education, wildlife, water quality, working forests, and permanent public recreation on the Whitefish Trail.

Protecting Smith Lake is a part of the larger effort to complete the 55+ mile recreation loop trail around Whitefish Lake.