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Flathead Lake Bio Station looks to businesses for financial support

April 14, 2019

The University of Montana’s Flathead Lake Biological Station, which has studied and monitored the Flathead Lake watershed for 120 years, relies on philanthropy for roughly 25 percent of its funding.

Many regional residents believe the station’s relevance and role are increasingly important as threats to the watershed, including potential infestation by aquatic invasive species, climate change and leaching septic systems, continue to grow.

On April 15, the biological station, based at Yellow Bay, will launch its first-ever Bio Station Business Drive fundraising campaign.

Lakeside resident Bruce Young, who serves on the research station’s advisory board, spawned the idea for the Business Drive. The fourth-generation Montanan has been a Realtor for more than 40 years and is a longtime advocate for Flathead Lake.

“The greatest mistake we could make is to think someone else is going to look after our most precious resource, which is water,” Young said. “The public must be involved and stay involved, and there is no better place to start than FLBS science.”

Gifts will directly support the biological station’s research and monitoring in the Flathead watershed, which includes Flathead, Whitefish and Swan lakes, as well as local rivers. This support will allow the station to continue and expand its collection and analysis of water samples, use technologically advanced sensor networks and increase chances of detecting unwanted invasive species as early as possible.

Declines in water quality and the arrival of new invasive species continue to be the greatest threats to the world-renowned waters of the Flathead and the economies that depend upon them, the station said. The Bio Station Business Drive intends to highlight the mutually beneficial relationship between the freshwater resources of Northwest Montana and the business communities that benefit from them, Young said. This fundraising effort gives local businesses the opportunity to step up as protectors of these irreplaceable resources, he said.

Invasive mussels are perhaps the most formidable threat to fresh water in the Flathead watershed and the rest of the state. Estimates suggest an invasive mussel infestation would cost Montana more than 120 million per year, while the loss to lake shore property values is estimated to be nearly 400 million in philanthropic giving to the University of Montana by the end of 2020.

Bansak said the University of Montana provides about one-quarter of the biological station’s funding. Research grants pay for many of the science-based activities based at the station but generous support from the region plays a key role, he said.

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