New group fighting for our waters

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Where there’s a will, there’s a way, and that’s a good thing when it comes to keeping an eye on aquatic invasive species and protecting the watershed of the Flathead Basin.

A new advocacy group has bubbled up in the wake of upheaval within the longstanding Flathead Basin Commission. State budget cuts stripped the organization of about 90 percent of its funding late last year. Then in February, Commission Executive Director Caryn Miske was fired following what she and others believe were unfounded allegations of misconduct made by the state Department of Natural Resources and Conservation. After the autonomous Flathead Basin Protection Fund pulled its financial support of the commission, too, it left a deflated organization essentially afloat without a paddle.

The newly organized Watershed Protection Advocates of Northwest Montana, however, is picking up some of the slack. Former commission chairperson Jan Metzmaker is leading the new group, with Miske — well-known for her expertise in aquatic invasive species — as the sole contractor. As an independent group free from government oversight, the Advocates are wasting no time in zeroing in on aquatic invaders in the Flathead Basin.

Metzmaker said the group specifically will be looking at the operation of inspection stations across the state and will be lobbying the Montana Legislature for a more permanent funding source in the fight against aquatic invasive species. This advocacy comes on the heels of the Flathead Basin Commission changing focus and handing off this important issue to Upper Columbia Conservation Commission oversight.

Somebody had to pick up the baton and run with it, and we’re glad to see the Watershed Protection Advocates leading the fight against an invasive threat to our most treasured natural resources.

Metzmaker has vowed to partner with other existing water-quality organizations, and the group will be fundraising for ongoing support. Collaboration is wise, especially in protecting our watershed.

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