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Friday, April 24th
9:00 AM

The Clark Fork River Basin Information Ecosystem

Barry Brown, University of Montana - Missoula

9:00 AM - 9:30 AM

This survey of the Clark Fork River Basin (CFRB) information ecosystem will address the following questions: What are the best resources to use for systematically finding, and managing, comprehensive environmental information about the CFRB? What are the types, and scope, of information sources available about the CFRB? To what extent is there open access to this literature? How can researchers obtain access to information sources that are not freely available online? What techniques can researchers use to stay aware of new information?

9:30 AM

Montana Groundwater Academy

Beth A. Covitt, University of Montana - Missoula; spectrUM
Jessie Herbert, University of Montana - Missoula; spectrUM
Deb Fassnacht, Watershed Education Network
Becca Paquette, Watershed Education Network

9:30 AM - 10:00 AM

spectrUM Discovery Area at the University of Montana, the Watershed Education Network, and many additional local partners are currently collaborating to implement a new field-based groundwater education program in western Montana. This presentation will provide an introduction to the Montana Groundwater Academy (MGA), which is a 2-year EPA-funded program that will engage high school students in place-based, data-driven science investigations. Students will develop knowledge of western MT hydrologic systems and the ability to undertake water research investigations. About 750 students will participate in a 3-day learning unit that will include a 1/2-day field trip to a groundwater education field site where students will collect firsthand data they will use in water science investigations. The field site will comprise a network of monitoring wells and surface water features accessible to learners for data collection (e.g., water elevation, etc.). The project will also make use of archived data to support learning about hydrologic and climate systems from data and evidence. Learning unit activities include: Day 1: In a classroom-based inquiry activity, students will use physical groundwater models to investigate the structure of groundwater systems and how water moves through the ground. Day 2: In a field-based activity, students will use firsthand data to investigate how water flows through landscapes, and implications for managing water resources to maintain quality and quantity. Day 3: In a classroom-based inquiry activity, students will work with longitudinal water and climate data from western MT to study relationships among variables (e.g., precipitation, groundwater elevation, etc.) and societal implications for maintaining water resources for current and future use.

10:00 AM

The Flathead Watershed Sourcebook

Lori Curtis, Whitefish Lake Institute

10:00 AM - 10:30 AM

Increasingly complex ecological and political issues and decreasing conservation program funding have led to a more challenging environment for conservation work. Watershed level partnerships and coalitions offer opportunities for diverse organizations and agencies to unite for conservation initiatives.

The Flathead Watershed Sourcebook is an excellent example of the power of collaboration. A product of the Flathead Community of Resource Educators (CORE), this book and companion website address the need to increase awareness and appreciation of natural, historical and cultural resources of the Flathead and to communicate watershed level interconnectedness to students. This watershed crosses international boundaries, encompasses a Biosphere Reserve, a World Heritage Site, nearly six million acres of forests, farms, cities, national park land, wilderness areas, and one of the most biologically intact ecosystems in North America.

This unique collaborative effort offers a central source for watershed information, and includes over 50 “Watershed Perspectives,” short individually contributed vignettes that help tell the story of the watershed from a variety of viewpoints. Authored and coordinated by a master’s graduate student, this project engaged resource professionals, scientists, educators, and citizens to promote place-based learning and conservation. The Sourcebook has been successfully incorporated into classroom learning throughout the Flathead and reprint requests are mounting.

The author will also unveil the ongoing collaboration underway by the Flathead CORE to develop middle school curriculum to accompany the Sourcebook. The curriculum is being designed to aid teachers in increasing their students’ proficiency and introducing them to conservation concepts through diverse activities and exercises.

10:30 AM

Fostering Watershed Stewardship

Mike Koopal, Whitefish Lake Institute

10:30 AM - 11:00 AM

The Whitefish Lake Institute (WLI) has fostered local and regional watershed stewardship through a combination of scientific discovery, educational programs, and community activities. We believe that capacity building not only benefits the organization and its mission, but supports partners of diverse interests to yield lasting change. Watershed groups must stay relevant to their constituents while creatively engaging the demographics hardest to reach.

2015 marks WLI’s 10 year anniversary. Initially, WLI focused on key programs to build credibility and trust in the community and with partners. Later, WLI developed a baseline monitoring program for the Whitefish Lake watershed to identify trends, and developed educational programs for school and adult groups to foster stewardship.

Over time, opportunities arose to further the understanding of our watershed and to build relationships. We developed formal partnerships with the City of Whitefish, Montana Fish, Wildlife & Parks, the Flathead Basin Commission, and the Road Scholar Program which enabled WLI to hire additional full-time staff and reach a broader audience. We brokered a solution with developers that led to a 30 acre wetland property gift to WLI where we opened a public interpretive nature trail. A popular fundraiser was developed to support our land management and internal programs.

11:00 AM

Flathead River to Lake Initiative

Constanza von der Pahlen, Flathead Lakers
Aaron Clausen, Flathead Lakers
Kris Tempel, Montana Fish, Wildlife and Parks
Laura Katzman, Flathead Lake Trust

11:00 AM - 11:30 AM

The Flathead River to Lake (R2L) Initiative is a collaborative effort that brings people together to conserve and restore the Flathead River and Flathead Lake's natural heritage – excellent water quality, outstanding scenic and recreational values, highly productive farmlands, and abundant fish and wildlife--through education, conservation and restoration projects. The R2L Initiative focuses on the main stem of the Flathead River from Bad Rock Canyon to the North Shore of Flathead Lake in Northwest Montana due to significant development threats and high resource values in this area. Our goal is to protect and enhance critical wetlands, riparian areas, floodplains, the shallow aquifer, and adjacent prime farm lands. Over the last decade, partners conserved over 5,000 acres and restored over 4 miles of riparian areas, through donated and purchased conservation easements and riparian restoration projects. Partners secured over $21 million in grant funding to protect and restore wetlands, waterfowl habitat, native fish habitat, and water quality.

Partners mapped critical lands to identify and prioritize areas for conservation, including wetlands and riparian forests, the shallow aquifer, steep slopes near water, development and road density, channel migration, important habitat, and prime farm land. In 2012, partners evaluated conservation accomplishments to determine the percentage of each type of critical area protected and to identify priority areas for future projects based on remaining unprotected critical lands, land parcel size, and resource values. Recently, partners expanded their capacity to deliver habitat restoration projects by initiating the Flathead River Steward program with the assistance of the Big Sky Watershed Corps program. This allows partners to engage young professionals to help partners better coordinate restoration planning and implementation, landowner outreach and follow-up, and project monitoring. The R2L Initiative demonstrates how a diverse group can work together toward common goals and achieve important conservation and restoration results that provide long-term benefits for landowners, communities, and the economy.

11:30 AM

The Clark Fork Watershed Education Program

Rayelynn Connole, Clark Fork Watershed Education Program

11:30 AM - 12:00 PM