Lakers help preserve Flathead’s pristine waters

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For more than 60 years the Flathead Lakers organization has advocated for clean water and a healthy ecosystem for Flathead Lake and the Flathead Valley watershed.

Recently, the Lakers partnered with the Flathead Land Trust to raise money supporting the Flathead River Conservation Project, preserving 155 acres of critical habitat on the lower Flathead River.

The Flathead River to Lake Initiative is also a collaborative project started in 2000 to protect the clean water and healthy habitat upstream from Flathead Lake.

According to the Flathead Land Trust’s website, “the River to Lake Initiative has conserved nearly 5,000 acres of critical lands adding to a network totaling nearly 11,000 acres of protected private and public lands in the river corridor and on the north shore of Flathead Lake.”

Further efforts to protect critical habitat included expanding riparian buffers along river beds. This past spring the Flathead Lakers and partners planted 550 trees along the Flathead River, fencing areas to protect the young aspen from deer browsing, and simultaneously providing habitat for birds and other wildlife, and filtering pollution from road runoff, farms and lawns.

Over the last 20 years, the Lakers’ student education program has provided more than 5,000 students with hands-on learning and field trips.

The Lakers also partnered with other organizations this spring to sponsor mussel walks for 400 Flathead Valley students. The walks were preceded by a week of hands-on invasive mussel prevention lessons in the classroom. Then students headed to local beaches searching for mussels and helping to clean the shorelines.

The Lakers hosted about 350 third- and fifth-graders in May on a day-long field trip to the Flathead Lake Biological Station to learn about the Flathead Valley’s watershed.

All these activities are geared to inspire the next generation of watershed stewards.

There are many ways to get involved and help support clean water in the Flathead. Besides volunteering or donating, a couple of fundraising opportunities are coming up. The fifth annual Poker Paddle is Aug. 11 in Bigfork and the fourth annual Flathead Lake 5K is Aug. 17 in Lakeside. Register for either event online at www.flatheadlakers.org

And for those who live near rivers and streams, the Lakers’ spring/summer newsletter recommends planting a buffer garden or adding to the vegetation in your riparian areas to help filter our harmful pollutants and protect Flathead Lake’s pristine waters.

Community Editor Carol Marino may be reached at 758-4440 or community@dailyinterlake.com.

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