Cabin owners around a small, remote lake in northwestern Montana are worried that increasing pressure from motorized recreationists could forever harm their little slice of heaven.
That’s why Rachel Potter and her neighbors have petitioned the Montana Fish and Wildlife Commission to pursue a nonmotorized watercraft designation for Tepee Lake.
“We really believe that now’s the time to make a rule before there is a problem,” Potter said.
The commission agreed, which will start a rule-making process to ban motorized boats and personal watercraft from the lake.
Tepee Lake is located in the scenic North Fork Flathead River valley and abuts the Flathead National Forest. With no inlet or outlet the lake has proven inhospitable to fish, although leeches thrive in the shallow waters.
The 17-acre lake, which is surrounded on the shores by large weedbeds, is a seasonal home to nesting loons, a species of waterfowl known for its haunting cry.
Like most public lands and waters in Montana, the North Fork Basin continues to see increasing pressure from boaters, campers and hikers. Nestled just west of Glacier National Park, the well-traveled gravel road up the valley leads to the Canadian border.
“Disturbance abounds in the national forest,” said Teagan Hayes, a Missoula research ecologist who worked on a project in the North Fork Basin for the U.S. Geological Survey.
With people putting increasing pressure on wildlife, Hayes said places like Tepee Lake are important as a refuge for species that include moose, lynx, bears and wolves.
Flannery Coats, of the North Fork Preservation Association, said the presence of motorized recreation in the region this summer increased, challenging others who visited seeking solitude.
Whitefish resident and Tepee Lake cabin owner Marguerite Kaminski said people who visit Tepee Lake are amazed by the “tranquility and grandeur” of the location, and she’d like to see it stay that way and not become an attraction for personal watercraft and motorboats.
Commissioners Tim Aldrich and Richard Stuker voiced support for the petition.
“I think it’s the right thing at the right time,” Aldrich said, referring to the area as “extremely fragile.”
Stuker said the Tepee Lake motorized boat ban is the “exact type of project” the commission should consider, rather than a wider ban on motorized boat use proposed four years ago as the Quiet Waters Initiative.
Commission chairman Shane Colton agreed. “If you can’t limit this type of use on this water, Montana is in trouble,” he said.