MISSOULA – A specialty license plate program has raised more than $118,000 to support the University of Montana Flathead Lake Biological Station and its Flathead Lake Monitoring Program. The funds were collected over the past six years from Montanans who pay a small donation with their annual vehicle registration. The specialty plate features a depiction of Flathead Lake.
The initiative was spearheaded by the Flathead Lake Protection Association, a grass-roots group that supports efforts to preserve water quality in the Flathead basin.
“FLBS’s monitoring program is the cornerstone of efforts to protect the Flathead’s water quality,” said Bruce Young, co-founder and board member of the association. “Water quality is the most important factor for our well-being and the local economy. Continuing this program is of the utmost importance.”
Approximately $50,000 of the license plate funds received so far will be matched by an anonymous donor as part of a Lake Monitoring Challenge Grant announced in December 2011. For each dollar raised up to $1 million, the donor will contribute an equal amount. Additional funds collected via license plate fees – and other donations from the community – during the next year will also be matched.
More information about the specialty license plates is online at http://www2.umt.edu/flbs/Community/KeepItBlue.aspx.
With government funding for research and monitoring declining over the past several years, private support has become an important part of the FLBS’s operating budget. FLBS Director Jack Stanford said about $400,000 has been raised towards the Challenge Grant so far.
“It is just great to have community support for Flathead Lake and our monitoring program,” Stanford said. “That people can choose to do so with this beautiful license plate is an added bonus. We are very fortunate to have the FLPA as a partner in our efforts to protect Flathead Lake. Their long-term dedication has really made a significant difference.”
License plate and Challenge Grant funds support monitoring of Flathead Lake water quality and ecology, adding to a data record that began in the 1890s. Water quality monitoring helps ensure that that Flathead Lake remains one of the cleanest large freshwater lakes in the world.
Established in 1899, UM’s Flathead Lake Biological Station is one of the oldest active biological field research stations in the United States. It is internationally renowned as a freshwater mecca for ecology and limnology researchers and students.
The FLPA is a volunteer nonprofit corporation dedicated to preserving and enhancing water quality in the Flathead Basin. Since 1980, the association has been involved in water quality issues as a strong citizen group, advocating the need for proactive public participation in all water quality issues and policies that affect the Flathead drainage.
Photo caption: Flathead Lake Biological Station Director Jack Stanford stands on the Jessie B research vessel near a water monitoring buoy earlier this year. (UM photo by Todd Goodrich)