Conserving clean water is good. Conserving watershed function is better.

The Flathead River watershed provides water for agriculture, municipalities, recreation and wildlife.

By Karen Nichols. Courtesy of Flathead Land Trust.


The watersheds of our region are delicate treasuries of freshwater. These systems not only provide water to drink and food to eat, but they contain elements for long-term sustainability for wildlife and for people. Watersheds, with their rivers and lakes, wetlands and grass meadows, high evergreen forests and low-land cottonwood and willow groves, provide an array of services upon which we depend.

In the Rocky Mountain West, private land is often in lower elevations and along stream courses and lakeshores. Conservation of keystone private lands contributes to clean water by avoiding sediment-causing activities like road-building and conversion of agricultural lands to subdivisions. It helps retain intact, vegetated streambanks and lakeshores, and forests and grasslands that reduce erosion and filter water. It protects wetlands and floodplains that contribute to groundwater recharge, water purification and flood control.
What do well-functioning watersheds provide?

  • Municipal water supplies
  • Habitat for fish, wildlife and plants
  • Water that supports local economies
  • Irrigation
  • Flood control
  • Erosion control
  • Recreation and inspiration
  • Groundwater recharge