Stanford Urges Continued Stewardship of Flathead Lake

Retiring director of biological station warns of persistent threats, including aquatic invasive species

By Beacon Staff

In his final “State of the Lake” address, Jack Stanford reflected on his long career at the Flathead Lake Biological Station and the special qualities that make Flathead Lake a world-class resource.

Roughly 150 people gave Stanford a standing ovation last week at the Flathead Lakers’ annual presentation near Lakeside. Stanford is retiring as director of the station next spring. He began working at the station in Yellow Bay in 1971 and became director in 1980.

Lakers President Greg McCormick presented Stanford and Bonnie Ellis, his wife and longtime research colleague, with a lifetime Flathead Lakers membership and invited them to participate in organization whenever they can.

Stanford credited the advocacy of the Flathead Lakers organization for its ongoing support, which is “critical” to the continued preservation of the lake and clean water in the Flathead watershed.

He said the station’s long-term monitoring program would help identify changes in the lake, including the Mysis shrimp population, which has a direct impact on the lake’s food chain.

Stanford reminded the crowd that the lake’s pristine qualities are under constant threat from a variety of sources, including aquatic invasive species, increased nitrogen due to pollution and the possibility of a trail derailment along the Middle Fork Flathead River. An average of 30 to 35 trains pass through the rail corridor each day, according to BNSF. Some trains are carrying crude oil, which, if spilled into the river, would be a catastrophic disaster, Stanford said.

With the global increase in nitrogen in the atmosphere due to pollution, it is vital to prevent an additional phosphorus from reaching the lake, he said.

Restoring healthy vegetated riparian buffers along streams, rivers and the lake and ensuring effective wastewater treatment are two of the ways communities can prevent increases, he noted.

An introduction of invasive quagga or zebra mussels would also change the lake forever, he noted.

He reflected on successes in the past that have protected the lake, including the successful passage of legislation that bans mining and pol and gas development in the North Fork on both sides of the international border.

Stanford said he is confident that incoming director Jim Elser will build on the biological station’s history of excellence in research and he expects him to build the education program.

McCormick presented the 2015 Flathead Lakers Stewardship Award to Bob and Betty Moore. The award recognizes the Moores’ generosity in working with the Flathead Lakers to create a demonstration lakeshore buffer on their property.


Lakers Executive Director Robin Steinkraus said the board and staff were inspired to establish a new volunteer award by the extraordinary dedication of three volunteers this year.

Sue McCormick stepped in to organize and run the Lakers’ 18th annual student field trips to the biological station. Her leadership resulted in successful hands-on watershed education experiences for over 200 students last spring.

Mark and Dana Johnston took on the challenge of organizing a new major fundraising event – the inaugural Flathead Lakers Poker Paddle. The event was a huge success, said Steinkraus, reaching the goal of 100 paddlers enjoying the lake and raising $5,000, while also informing a broad audience about the organization and its work to protect the lake and water quality in its watershed.

Stay Connected with the Daily Roundup.

Sign up for our newsletter and get the best of the Beacon delivered every day to your inbox.