(photo credit: Flathead County Search and Rescue)

COLUMBIA FALLS – The first steps in developing what’s being called a “comprehensive” management plan for the Flathead River watershed will be taken this week with a goal of coming up with a strategy that could work for “generations.”

It was 40-years ago that the three forks of the Flathead River were among the first waterways in the country to be designated as a “Wild and Scenic River.”

The Flathead National Forest and Glacier National Park are spearheading an initiative to develop a “Comprehensive River Management Plan” for all three forks of the Flathead.

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That includes everything from the remote stretches of the North Fork, to the wild waters of the Middle Fork, and the more “tamed” sections of the South Fork, including the tens of thousands of acres surrounding and behind Hungry Horse Dam and reservoir.

It’s a river system that drains the wilderness of the Bob Marshall and Glacier National Park, as well as being the easternmost watershed of the Columbia River Basin.

However, pressure is building on the Flathead system, especially from recreation. And the management plan aims to come up with details like user capacity and objectives to maintain the wild nature of the Flathead.

The first public meeting on development of the CRMP plan will be held on Tuesday night beginning at 6 p.m. at the Cedar Creek Lodge in Columbia Falls. It’s expected to be just the first of several public meetings for the plan, which isn’t slated for competition until 2020.

Reporting by Dennis Bragg for MTN News