Of Critical Importance
This is why... - Dick Siderius
Voices of Our Volunteers - Anita Ho
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Help Keep Flathead Lake Clean!
Of Critical Importance
It is easy to play along the shores of Flathead Lake or fish its deep waters and not think about the massive amount of water that moves through this entire area.  Flathead Lake is not a closed system, but part of a watershed that drains nearly six million acres of mostly pristine landscapes. 

In 1999, facing haphazard growth and development in the valley, the Flathead Lakers board of directors felt the urgency to expand our focus beyond the shores of Flathead Lake to understand and protect this system of scenic rivers and streams that provide the lake with fresh, clean water. 

The Critical Lands Project was launched in 1999, with the Flathead Lakers bringing together resource managers, conservationists, and scientists, many strangers to each other, to identify the critical lands that keep Flathead Lake beautiful and clean and to find common ground to do something to protect those lands.  These riparian lands are breathtaking, but also support diverse animal and plant life and function as a filter for pollutants that have been picked up by stormwater runoff… allowing cool, clean water to find its way to Flathead Lake.

This group, now the Flathead River to Lake Initiative, includes local landowners – the lifeblood of this project, Flathead Land Trust, Montana Fish, Wildlife & Parks, Montana Land Reliance, Flathead Audubon, American Bird Conservancy, Confederated Salish & Kootenai Tribes, Flathead Conservation District, Natural Resource Conservation Service, and the Flathead Lakers.  The strength and commitment of this group has led to:
  • conserving over 5,000 acres of critical lands through voluntary conservation easements and land acquisition,
  • nine stream and river riparian restoration projects that have reestablished the plant community and functioning of the riparian system, and
  • a greater understanding in the community of the importance of these riparian systems. 
The success of this project is entirely due to the hard work of all the partners involved and the landowners who support and believe in preserving their beautiful and critically important lands. 

One of the largest single pieces to be conserved along the Flathead River came from the Dr. Glenn Johnston family.  Dr. Johnston, who recently passed away, recalled being told by a real estate consultant to “never fall in love with the land… it will interfere with your business decisions…” Dr. Johnston response was, “what better thing is there to fall in love with?” and protected 700 acres of farm and forested land and river frontage.  The Johnston conservation easement donation was a priceless gift to the valley.

Many Montanans feel this draw to the land.  Here in the Flathead Valley, we enjoy abundant wildlife, healthy wetlands, and clean rivers and lakes. We have the advantage of protecting existing wetlands and riparian areas before they are ruined.

 The communities around Flathead Lake are again bursting with new construction and development. The more altered and paved our landscape becomes, the more difficult it will be to keep our lake and the waters that feed it clean. Our challenge is to find a balance between smart development in the valley and the awe-inspiring beauty and natural heritage this area has to offer ­­– all which is supported by clean water.  Conservation-minded landowners and our River to Lake Initiative partners continue to help achieve this goal.
This is Why...  
I am blessed to live in the same house where I grew up as a child.  My grandfather bought our land in 1911, situated along a half mile of Ashley Creek south of Kalispell.  My wife and I love the views from our house, which sits on a high bench above our fields and the creek. 

Ashley Creek, I’ve learned, has its share of problems, including warm temperatures, high nutrients, and abundant algae. According to a recent water quality study, the stream is impaired because of nutrients from agriculture, failing septic systems, lack of trees along the creek that filter out pollutants, and other pollutants brought in by stormwater runoff. 

This is why, to help our creek recover, I recently put a fence along the creek to keep cows out of the river bank riparian area. I am working with Flathead River Steward Program partners* to bring back the native plants along the south side of the creek.

The north side of the creek hasn’t had cattle on it since the flood of ’64, so I’ve been able to see the effects they have had on the creek and riparian land on my side. Beautiful native plants and trees that help protect Ashley Creek by filtering nutrients from runoff and providing shade are thriving on the north side, but cows trampled the banks on the south side, leaving little riparian vegetation.

I know my efforts are only a beginning. It will take many neighbors along the creek, each of us doing our part, to help restore our creek’s clean waters, which will also help restore and protect the Flathead River and Flathead Lake downstream.

... I'm helping restore Ashley Creek.   -Dick Siderius
*The River Steward Program is the restoration arm of the Flathead River to Lake Initiative, a collaborative effort the Flathead Lakers helped start and coordinate.
Voices of Our Volunteers

Anita Ho
For the past few years, Dean and I have volunteered, along with some of my students from FVCC, with the willow planting project that the River to Lake Initiative (R2L) organizes. It was an easy choice for us to make, as we believe in and support the work the R2L partners do in protecting clean water and healthy ecosystems in the Flathead. In addition, all of the logistics have been taken care of, and the projects have been in parts of the valley we hadn’t seen up-close. All we had to do was show up on a spring weekend day—and, as a bonus, grungy clothes were totally acceptable!

I believe students should be informed citizens, involved in and connected with their community, and this project has been an easy way to introduce them to some practical, “real-life” science and restoration projects in the Flathead Valley. It might also help connect them with people, agencies and information that may be useful later on in their academic careers or personal lives. I think they also come away from the experience with a first-hand understanding of how a lot of science is really about the people, and how positive things happen when people work together. Most of them will agree it’s actually pretty fun work. The willow planting is mainly manual labor, but our many hands make light work, which is made even better by knowing it’s for a common goal.

Science on Tap-Flathead
Join us on the first Tuesday of each month in Bigfork
at the Flathead Lake Brewing Company.

Scientists from around the region share their work in a fun and approachable way. These events are sponsored by the Flathead Lakers and the Flathead Lake Biological Station with support from the Flathead Lake Brewing Company.

Check out: for a schedule and archived videos of past events. 
Enjoy a Concert and Support the Flathead Lakers 

Mission Valley Live is partnering with the Flathead Lakers on its concert in Polson:

Jitro Czech Republic Children's Choir
March 30 at 7:00 pm • Polson High School

The Flathead Lakers will receive 50% of the ticket price for each Voucher presented when you purchase a ticket for this concert.  Multiple tickets can be purchased.  Get your voucher here.

Save the Date

July 10, 2016

Flathead Lakers' 2nd Annual Poker Paddle
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
  • Becoming a Watershed Citizen Biological Station field trips -         May 25, 26, and June 2
  • Spring Adopt-a-Hwy Clean up -         date TBA
  • Poker paddle - July 10
  • Many more ways to volunteer
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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