Diverse collaborators are the key to prosperity

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Sanders and Lincoln counties have parallel paths to common goals in economic and community development. This includes strengthening small businesses, beautifying our communities, increasing environmental health and social welfare, and generally enhancing our quality of life. At the heart of these strategies is the significance of our public lands.

Our counties’ separate governing bodies experience systemic challenges that mirror one another. The communities within Sanders and Lincoln counties share the economic distress seen in western rural communities suffering from the instability of our natural resources economy. But through it all, the value of our public lands continue to be immeasurable to our way of life. Our forests offer opportunities for community prosperity — timber, minerals, recreation, healthy watersheds and wildlife habitat abound.

Successful rural mountain communities of the west must leverage their resources — civic, private, municipal — and unify around creative solutions from diverse perspectives. We must value this function to pool limited capacity and assets. It is imperative to develop priorities with diverse input and public process.

The Kootenai Forest Stakeholders Coalition is an example of working together to benefit communities through public land management. With membership from both Sanders and Lincoln counties, interests include the timber industry, recreation and wilderness. They find common ground in multiple-use of our shared asset, the Kootenai National Forest. Their model eliminates polarization and creates a united vision. The group collectively works to meet common goals that provide balanced and sustainable use of the Kootenai National Forest. When we see value in efforts that complement one another, we will find our brightest future. In partnership, we work together as neighbors.

In Libby, the Flower Creek Nordic Trails works with resources of four public land owners and agencies, the Libby School system and local users. The project will prepare for future infrastructure needs to support school programs, recreation and events planning of the biathlon range.

Thompson Falls Community Trails (TFCT) envisions a safe and convenient network of non-motorized trails connecting existing recreation areas, as well as key locations within the community such as schools and downtown Main Street. These connections benefit our economy and our environment. With multiple stakeholders, both public and private landowners and dedicated volunteers, TFCT has increased the quality of life for both residents and visitors.

Local development specialists often work behind the scenes to create momentum and drive projects forward. We keep a finger on the pulse of it all. We are the community connectors. Join us in the belief that diverse perspectives contribute to stronger accomplishments.

With admiration and respect for our communities,

—Jen Kreiner,

Sanders County Community Development Corporation;

Tina Oliphant,

Kootenai River Development Council

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