Glacier National Park, Montana — A conservation district and private landowners who live inside Glacier National Park are teaming up against a California couple who built a home without a permit next to a creek.

The Flathead Beacon reports that a San Diego couple is suing various parties, including the Flathead Conservation District and local residents, to prevent the demolition of their under-construction home, which they built on private property (known as an inholding) inside Glacier National Park.

John and Stacy Ambler, originally from San Diego, have been building a three-story home near Lower McDonald Creek in Glacier National Park. A home hasn’t existed on the lot since the major Flathead Valley floods of 1964. Local residents were angry with the couple building the home without applying for a free permit, as they believed that this construction violated Montana’s Natural Streambed and Land Preservation Act (NSLPA), as they built it on the bank of the Creek. While they are allowed to have a home there due to it being an inholding, which allows residents to have a home on national parkland, building anew raises complexities.

The Flathead Conservation District’s (FCD) Board of Supervisors ruled that their construction violated the NSLPA and ordered them to demolish the building and fix the bank before April 1, 2024, which was not an April Fool’s Joke.

Ultimately, the Amblers responded by filing lawsuits in state and federal courts to contest the ruling. They believe that no permit was needed from either the county or the National Park to begin construction. With an inholding property in a national park, the law that established Glacier National Park states that “nothing herein contained shall affect any valid existing claim, location or entry under the land rules of the United States, or the rights of any such claimant.” Whether Montana land should apply to them is the major question here. The Ambler believes Glacier National Park, not the state, has jurisdiction.

Last month, a group of local residents formed Friends of Montana’s Streams and Rivers (FMSR). By joining the lawsuit, they’re aiming to protect local laws. Led by local Monica Jungster, the residents have joined FMSR’s federal case to oppose John and Stacey Ambler’s unauthorized construction of a home on McDonald Creek.

Attorney and former Montana congressman Rob Farris-Olsen described the reason why the residents decided to intervene:

“The decision to intervene was to give a voice to the residents who have slightly different interests than the Flathead Conservation District, which is interested in exercising its jurisdiction on the banks of one of the most pristine waterways in Montana. These adjacent landowners, like Monica Jungster and other folks who have spent their entire lives working and playing in the area, have a unique perspective and they want to advocate for the protection of McDonald Creek, and to ensure Montana’s constitutional guarantee of a clean and healthful environment are met.”

I personally understand both sides of the argument here due to the legal complexities of this situation. However, due to its proximity to a nearby creek, I feel like this new development should’ve gone through a permit process. While the couple believes that being an inholding should protect them, being inside of a national park really should open the development up to more scrutiny, not less.

Click here to read the article by the Flathead Beacon, which dives into the complexities of this case.

Image/Video Credits: Flathead Conservation District, NBC Montana, Glacier National Park

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