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Lakes conference a good chance to learn

by Daily Inter Lake
| October 15, 2023 12:00 AM

From the hundreds of pristine alpine lakes in Glacier National Park, to the vast expanses of Flathead and Whitefish lakes, and Hungry Horse and Koocanusa reservoirs, no geographical feature better defines Northwest Montana than the area’s numerous waterbodies.

Next week at the Montana Lakes Conference, many of the top minds in aquatic ecology will be in Whitefish to present solutions to the full slate of challenges and threats facing lakes in the state.

Wastewater treatment and ongoing efforts to prevent aquatic invasive species are among some of the most critical topics that will be discussed. Other presentations will focus on nutrients affecting water quality, best practices for living on lakes, the water quality at Flathead Lake’s popular swimming spots, selenium contamination in Lake Koocanusa, managing native fish, and how to become drought resilient amid a changing climate.

Every one of these topics hit close to home for Northwest Montanans, but it’s a workshop on “water conflict management and transformation” that stands out as germane.

“While we all agree that water is a precious resource, disagreements sometimes arise when we talk about how to care for lakes, streams and reservoirs,” a media release for the conference workshop states. “Policy makers ask how to protect water resources. Citizens feel the pressure to change. Politicians try to find a balance. Disagreements may arise.”

Oh boy, do they ever — we’re looking at you Flathead Lake water level, selenium in Koocanusa and septic leachate in Whitefish Lake.

As the debate on each of these topics becomes heated — and political — it would behoove decision-makers in the state Legislature, and those serving on county commissions and city councils to take part in this portion of the conference that is open to the public, with the goal of learning how to better navigate these discussions toward resolution.

In fact, elected officials will likely find immense value in many of the other presentations at this conference, where scientists will share factual data about major issues facing the region.

Water quality is intrinsically linked to Northwest Montana’s economy, recreation opportunities, property values and overall quality of life. The nonprofit Whitefish Lake Institute is to be commended for organizing this important conference, and we encourage everyone with a vested interest in protecting the region’s most treasured resource to participate and learn.

Visit the Whitefish Lake Institute online to see the full conference agenda.