UM Bio Station Launches Business Drive to Support Flathead Lake Watershed

April 12, 2019

UM’s Flathead Lake Biological Station has studied and monitored the Flathead watershed for 120 years.YELLOW BAY – The University of Montana’s Flathead Lake Biological Station will officially launch its first-ever Bio Station Business Drive fundraising campaign on Monday, April 15.

Gifts will directly support FLBS research and monitoring in the Flathead watershed, which includes Flathead, Whitefish and Swan lakes, as well as local rivers. This support will allow FLBS 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.

The vision for the Bio Station Business Drive came from Lakeside resident Bruce Young, who currently serves on the UM research station’s advisory board. The fourth-generation Montanan has been a Realtor for over 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.”

For more than 120 years, FLBS has stood as a world-leading ecological research and education facility on the shores of Flathead Lake. In that time, it has been a sentinel of the Flathead watershed, monitoring water quality and watching for unwanted invasive species.

The Bio Station Business Drive logoDeclines 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 Bio Station Business Drive highlights the mutually beneficial relationship between the freshwater resources of northwest Montana and the business communities that benefit from them. This fundraising effort gives local businesses the opportunity to step up as protectors of these irreplaceable resources.

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 over $230 million annually in revenue loss and mitigation costs. The direct impact of invasive mussels to tourism and recreation is estimated to be over $120 million per year, while the loss to lake shore property values is estimated to be nearly $500 million.

Yet aquatic invasive mussels are only one threat facing our freshwater-based economy that FLBS researchers study. Other issues, such as leaching septic systems and climate change, also are growing areas of concern. Increasing water quality monitoring allows researchers to detect threats before they can become problems that destroy the value of lakes, rivers and private property. It also helps managers and legislators make more informed decisions to protect water quality in the Flathead watershed.

Young hopes he can get as many businesses as possible to support the Bio Station Business Drive, but he certainly doesn’t expect support from all businesses to be the same. Businesses are encouraged to participate in the drive in any way, such as helping to promote the station in their respective communities either by having FLBS materials available for their customers, helping to further promote the business drive itself or creating a special “Keep Our Waters Blue”-themed products for purchase.

“If businesses are able to provide financial support, that’s fantastic,” Young said. “If they come up with some other creative way to engage with the business drive, that’s great, too. Whether business communities participate at a high level or a lower level, as long as we’re all working toward a common goal of doing all we can to monitor and protect the quality of our water, then this business drive will be a huge success.”

Young said he’s already connected with several chambers of commerce in the Flathead area and already has received an overwhelmingly positive response.

“It’s so clearly a win for everybody,” he said. “This isn’t about politics or making a money grab. It’s about water, and water is about life.”

The Bio Station Business Drive will run through the summer and end on Oct. 15. Businesses can participate in the drive by emailing Bruce Young at bruce@mr.flatheadlake.com  or calling 406-249-9787. FLBS Assistant Director Tom Bansak also is available at tom.bansak@umontana.edu or 406-872-4503.

Businesses also can give directly through the Bio Station Business Drive website at http://bit.ly/FLBS-BusinessDrive. More information about Young and the Bio Station Business Drive can be found at http://bit.ly/FLBS-MrFlatheadLake.

Gifts to the business drive are part of Campaign Montana, a comprehensive, seven-year fundraising effort that aims to inspire $400 million in philanthropic giving to UM by the end of 2020. Donors will help UM’s vision of a university that drives excellence and innovation in teaching, research and learning. The campaign is managed by the UM Foundation, an independent, nonprofit organization that inspires philanthropic support to enhance excellence and opportunity at UM. Visit https://www.campaignmontana.org/ to learn more.

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Contact: Tom Bansak, assistant director, UM Flathead Lake Biological Station, 406-872-4503, tom.bansak@flbs.umt.edu; Ian Withrow, FLBS media/information specialist, 406-872-4544, ian.withrow@flbs.umt.edu.