Flathead's Changing Climate-Dr. Shawn Devlin
This is Why... Executive Director Robin Steinkraus
Voices of Our Volunteers - Jeff Tuttle
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Be sure to check out our Announcements for our summer list of events! We have a busy summer starting and look forward to seeing everyone on the lake!
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Flathead's Changing Climate
by Dr. Shawn Devlin
Flathead Lake Biological Station

Despite its pristine beauty and crystal clear water, Flathead Lake is not immune to a changing climate. Across the globe, lakes are acting as sentinels, canaries in the climate change coal mine, demonstrating that climate change is not only the biggest environmental challenge that our children will face, but is, in fact, happening now.

In the middle of Flathead Lake, where she is at her deepest, Flathead Lake Biological Station (FLBS) researchers recorded the highest temperatures observed over the last 40 years. The surface reached 24° C (75° F) last summer, while even higher water temperatures of nearly 30° C (85° F) were recorded in sheltered bays.

The thermal structure of lakes worldwide has been changing fast over the past 30 years, with higher maximum temperatures, shorter durations of ice cover, and fewer days where stratification (warm shallow depths and cold deep depths) occur. Increased water temperatures have been shown to increase primary production (the rate of algal growth) and favor cyanobacteria or blue-green algae, which are associated with harmful algal blooms.

Flathead Lake has been relatively resistant to change, and FLBS records show slight increases in surface water temperatures since the Station began keeping records in the 1970s. That does not mean that the lake is immune to change. In fact, we are using sophisticated models to understand how climate change could alter thermal properties of the lake. We used climate projections for the Flathead Valley to see if expected increases in air temperature and changes in wind speed and humidity will cause changes to Flathead Lake water temperatures. What we learned is that the overall mean temperature of Flathead Lake is expected to increase by only roughly 0.8° C, but the maximum surface temperatures during summer stratification could increase by as much as 8° C (15° F) by the end of this century. That means that the warm bath-like waters we experienced last summer will become downright hot in the next 80 years. The deep dark waters below 75 feet will remain roughly the same, COLD, but dramatic changes in surface temperatures are nearly certain.

Climate change is not something that we can easily fix. And it won’t be possible to fix by local actions alone. An interesting and dire fact I read recently: the last person to live a full life with atmospheric carbon dioxide levels below 500 ppm was born last week – regardless of anything humankind can do. The giant ship that is our climate takes far too long to turn and we are “full speed ahead,” so to speak.

Changes to the climate are happening at a global scale and will require a global effort. But there are still many essential efforts to be made at the local scale to help protect Flathead Lake. By insuring that the watershed remains healthy, by instituting the best management practices to keep pollutants out of the lake, by working hard to prevent the establishment of invasive species, we can insure that we do not compound the problems out of our direct control like climate change, with those problems that are under our control.

Climate change is affecting our lake, but there is still so much good we can do.  Let’s continue to work hard together to keep Flathead Lake beautiful and blue.

This is Why...
Clean water – nothing is more basic. Not only is it essential for our health and well being, it is fundamental for a healthy environment and economy.  It is a source of beauty, wonder, recreation, and renewal.  
We are fortunate to have abundant clean water and a jewel like Flathead Lake.  With that good fortune comes the responsibility to be vigilant stewards.  The Flathead Lakers was founded on that premise, and our board, staff, volunteers, and members continue, nearly 60 years later, to work diligently to protect our lake and the waters that feed it.
The changing climate emerged as a top concern of several influential leaders around our watershed when, in 2013, we asked them what they thought was the most significant problem on the horizon for our lake and clean water.  And recent monitoring by the Flathead Lake Biological Station shows that Flathead Lake is getting warmer. 
This is why we’ve invited University of Montana climate scientist Dr. Steve Running to tell us more about his research and how climate change is affecting our watershed at our July 5 Science on Tap.
This is why we support the Flathead Lake Biological Station’s water quality monitoring program to provide early warning of changes and problems in lake quality.
This is why we forge partnerships to conserve and restore critical wetlands, riparian areas, and floodplains that help sustain clean water, stream and river flows, and groundwater recharge.
This is why we speak up for effective clean water protection policies, regulations, and management decisions.
This is why we provide educational opportunities to help students and adults understand our watershed, the value of our waters, and ways to be good stewards.

                          …Together, We are Protecting Clean Water

                        –Robin Steinkraus, Flathead Lakers Executive Director
Voices of Our Volunteers

Jeff Tuttle
As a new 2015 resident of Flathead Lake, with a former career in environmental consulting, I was looking for a way to use my science background and to get involved with the volunteer community.  My wife Susan and I discovered both the Flathead Lakers and the University of Montana’s Flathead Lake Biological Station.  What better way to share a love of place…the amazing Flathead Watershed…than to get involved with helping to educate our future “stewards of the lake”?
I recently had the opportunity to work with third and fifth graders from area schools teaching them about sources of pollution and what they can do to help protect our uniquely pristine environment for future generations. 

It’s great to be part of the Lakers community, and we look forward to continued involvement with this great organization as “citizen scientist” volunteers.

Science on Tap-Flathead

University Regents Professor of Global Ecology, Dr. Steve Running will speak with us about the current state of climate change science.  He is an internationally renowned climate scientist, participating in the US National Climate Assessment, the NASA Science Advisory Council, and the Fourth Assessment of the Intergovernmental Panel on Climate Change, sharing the 2007 Nobel Peace Prize.   
Check out: for a schedule and archived videos of past events. 

Flathead Lakers' 2nd Annual Poker Paddle

July 10, 2016

Our registration deadline was July 1.  Watch for announcements for the 3rd Annual Poker Paddle next spring!  Questions? Call (406) 298-LAKE (5253)
This event is SOLD OUT!
But you can add your name to a waiting list in case there are cancellations.

Join Us on July 27
Flathead Lakers Annual Meeting

Flathead Lake Biological Station
6:15 Social time - 7:00 Program
We are supporting our friends at the Community Association for North Shore Conservation in the fight against the bridge to Dockstaeder Island.  
Their fundraiser on the 29th sounds like a fun time... 

Space is limited, please RSVP 
with Click here for more information

Big Sky Antique & Classic Boat Show
August 6/7 at Marina Cay in Bigfork

View the boats and visit the Flathead Lakers' booth on Saturday the 6th and meet the K9 unit charged with defending Flathead Lake from invasive mussels. Read about Tobias!

Run for Clean Water and Support the Flathead Lakers! 
August 20 at Volunteer Park, Lakeside
Check-in 9 am / Race start 10 am
Cost: (18+) $20, (13-18) $15, (7-12) $10, 7 and under FREE (no shirt)

Registration information coming soon to our website:
Site Visits
Have you wondered what you can do around your property to be more ‘lake-friendly’?  Are you interested in learning about best management practices (BMPs) that would lessen your impact on the lake? 

Schedule a free site visit today. Site visits can be done any time of the year without snow and on weekends with advanced notice.
Contact Hilary Devlin, Education and Outreach Coordinator at 883-1341 or 
  • Volunteer advocacy groups
  • Poker Paddle Fundraiser - July 10
  • Adopt a Highway Clean-Up - TBD September
  • Riparian buffer weeding and maintenance - various dates (
  • Individual projects centered around your talents
  • Many more ways to volunteer, contact Hilary Devlin at 883-1341 or (
Copyright ©2016 Flathead Lakers, All rights reserved.

Thank you for your support for the Flathead Lakers and our work to protect Flathead Lake
and clean water in its watershed.

Flathead Lakers

PO Box 70, Polson, MT 59860  (406) 883-1346

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