After 12 years as the Flathead Basin Commission’s executive director, Caryn Miske has been terminated.
She shared the news with commission members and affiliates in an email Friday afternoon. Miske’s termination leaves the 35-year-old water-oversight group without an executive director.
On Miske’s watch, the commission fought to protect the Flathead River’s headwaters from coal mining pollution in British Columbia, and led Northwest Montana’s effort to stop the spread of invasive zebra and quagga mussels.
But over the past year, the commission has faced multiple setbacks, which some have seen as politically motivated. Various state agencies opposed a pilot program it crafted to inspect incoming boats; funding for Miske’s salary was mostly cut in November’s special session; three months ago, Miske was placed on administrative leave, then terminated on Feb. 26.
John Grassy, public information officer for the Montana Department of Natural Resources and Conservation, declined to comment on the reasons for Miske’s termination. Jack Potter, one of the commission’s citizen members, said that the status of the executive director position moving forward is “a little uncertain.”
“We don’t have any funding to fill it right now,” he told the Daily Inter Lake, explaining that more funding would have to wait until next year’s legislative session.
In the meantime, the Department of Natural Resources and Conservation may take on some of the administrative duties previously held by the Basin Commission, although Grassy said that no firm plans have been made. Potter said that the group would miss Miske’s fundraising efforts.
In her email, Miske thanked the commission’s fellow members for their work, writing that “our accomplishments over the past 12 years provide a legacy of which we can be proud.”
Last week, the Basin Commission passed a motion stating that it would reassess its role in the fight against invasive mussels. Miske cautioned that “extreme vigilance will be needed if we are to successfully keep mussels from crossing the Continental Divide,” and reminded recipients that the Department of Natural Resources and Conservation, which administers the commission, “is not legally entitled to set the programmatic policy” for the agency.
“It will be difficult to run programs without significant funding,” she predicted, adding that “one of the few tools left at your disposal will be the integrity, credibility and independence the FBC can provide.”
Miske could not be reached for further comment.
Reporter Patrick Reilly can be reached at firstname.lastname@example.org, or at 758-4407.