The Steering Committee

The Steering Committee for the Flathead Watershed Sourcebook: A Guide to an Extraordinary Place is a group of highly dedicated resource professionals who, above and beyond their important work in the community, donate time and energy to environmental education in the watershed. The committee worked tirelessly to guide the development of the project from its inception through completion. Through this group, citizens of the Flathead Watershed have a strong voice for commonsense conservation.      


Crown of the Continent
Ecosystem Education Consortium (COCEEC)
Lex Blood
P.O. Box 902
Kalispell, MT 59903

The Crown of the Continent Ecosystem covers approximately 44,000 km2 (16,000 mi2) and includes the treasured Glacier National Park and Bob Marshall Wilderness Complex in Montana and Waterton Lakes National Park in Alberta. The Crown of the Continent is mostly a vibrant, functional ecosystem. It will remain so provided the people who treasure it are willing to make themselves aware of the ecological processes that govern this ecosystem and humankind’s impact on those processes, be concerned about maintaining the health of the ecosystem, and translate their concerns into beneficial actions. Recognizing the need to accomplish these things, in 1994—at the invitation of Lex Blood—more than 20 education providers, agency and private organization representatives came together to form the collaborative Crown of the Continent Ecosystem Education Consortium (COCEEC.) COCEEC has since been active in developing ecosystem-focused curricula, workshops, and projects. In 2002 COCEEC published Crown of the Continent: Profile of a Treasured Landscape. COCEEC represents the ecosystem from the Waterton and Castle-Crown regions in southern Alberta to Missoula, Montana

Dr. Lex Blood is a trained geologist, long-time Flathead educator, and an extraordinarily active participant in conservation efforts throughout the Flathead Watershed. Dr. Blood has a DSc in Geological Engineering from the Colorado School of Mines in Golden Colorado and a BSc in Business Administration from the University of Virginia, Charlottesville, Virginia and Yale University, New Haven, Connecticut. As a private consultant, he has conducted work in mining, mineral exploration, geologic land use studies, and resource conservation throughout the world, was a Mineral Exploration Consultant and was the co-founder/co-owner of Cavalier Mica Corporation in Newport News, Virginia. Dr. Blood is retired from a distinguished teaching career as a Geology/Geography/Earth Science instructor at Flathead Valley Community College, and an adjunct professor of Natural Resources at the University of Montana. He was the Geo-technology program director and instructor for the U.S. Department of Education, and the project director and instructor for the Montana Private Industry Council’s Applied Earth Science Technology Program at Flathead Community College. He was a co-founder, president emeritus, executive director, and instructor for the Glacier Institute in Kalispell, Montana, and is the founder of COCEEC. He serves as executive director for The Sustainability Fund. Dr. Blood continues to contribute to and lecture for a variety of organizations, consortiums, and institutes.


Flathead Audubon Society
Nancy Zapotocki
Conservation Educator
P.O. Box 9173
Kalispell, MT 59904

The Flathead Audubon Society is a local chapter of the national Audubon Society. Our mission is to: conserve birds, wildlife habitat and ecosystem diversity; promote awareness and appreciation of the natural world through education and advocacy; work with diverse groups and agencies to achieve sound decisions on natural resource issues; provide community services such as school programs, work projects, and field trips. While our efforts focus on northwest Montana, we believe in the protection of the earth and all its inhabitants.

Nancy Zapotocki coordinates the Conservation Education Program which includes outreach and education activities and development of conservation education materials. Nancy networks with resource agencies, schools, organizations and individuals to facilitate community-based conservation and watershed education activities. She presents education programs to local schools, the community and provides training for local educators, to help increase stewardship and conservation of natural resources. Nancy has experience in a number of capacities related to natural resources, education and planning including park ranger, ecologist, fish and wildlife biologist, senior water quality planner, coastal zone management planner, and private consultant. She has worked for the U.S. Army Corps of Engineers, U.S. Fish and Wildlife Service, National Park Service and county programs and private institutions. Her efforts have included the development of education programs and curriculum, cultural and interpretive programs, educational materials and natural resource plans. She is a Project WET (Water Education for Teachers) facilitator, co-author of Field Guide to Anchorage Wetlands, designer of Endangered Species and You curriculum and has been published in the Journal of Environmental Education and Interpretation. Nancy has a Master’s in Biology with a concentration in Education and a Bachelor of Science in Environmental Resource Management. She is a member of COCEEC, Flathead Audubon, Flathead Community of Resource Educators, Friends of the Flathead County Library, Montana Environmental Education Association, Montana Native Plant Society, and the Montana Watershed Coordination Council.


Flathead Basin Commission
Caryn Miske
Executive Director
1655 Timberwolf Parkway
Kalispell, Montana 59901

The Flathead Basin Commission (FBC) was created in 1983 by the Montana Legislature to monitor and protect water quality and the natural resources in one of the State’s most important watersheds.  The FBC is a uniquely structured non-regulatory organization that works to accomplish its mandate in a consensus-building manner, stressing education, cooperation, broadly based community involvement, partnerships with agencies and nonprofit groups, and the voluntary participation of Basin residents. 

The twenty-three member Commission represents a cross-section of citizens and local, state, tribal, federal and provincial agency representatives who strive to identify the Basin’s water quality and natural resources problems and work collectively to implement the most effective solutions.  The Agency members of the Commission are prescribed in statute; the citizen members are appointed by the governor for four-year staggered terms. The Flathead Basin Commission has become a model of successful citizen and inter-agency cooperation in a geographically vast and ecologically diverse watershed characterized by its overall pristine character, international dimension, and multi-jurisdictional nature.

Caryn Miske is the Executive Director of the Flathead Basin Commission (FBC), a state agency statutorily charged with protecting the waters that flow into, and out of, the Flathead Basin.  The FBC was originally established in 1983 in response to proposals from British Columbia to permit strip mining in the headwaters of the Flathead River, and the FBC has worked diligently to protect the headwaters for over 25 years.  In addition to its transboundary mission, the FBC works in a variety of other areas including projects related to sustainable development within the Basin.  Currently, one of the FBC’s top priorities is facilitating the development of a basinwide plan to protect the Flathead from aquatic invasive species, such as the zebra and quagga mussels.
Prior to her position with the FBC, Ms. Miske worked as both a land use attorney and an environmental/socio-economic consultant for a private consulting firm.  Ms. Miske obtained her law degree from the University of Montana in 2001 and a Masters in Public Administration from Columbia University in 1993.


Flathead Conservation District
Patti Mason
Outreach & Watershed Coordinator
133 Interstate Lane
Kalispell, MT 59901

Conservation Districts work locally to conserve soil, water and other natural resources.  The Flathead Conservation District (FCD) includes all areas within the county boundaries except within the original (1945) city limits of Kalispell and Columbia Falls. FCD has served all of Flathead County since 1945 to promote conservation and since 1976 to administer the Natural Streambed and Land Preservation Act. FCD is administered by a six member volunteer board and three staff members that work through a combination of education, outreach and on the ground projects to achieve its mission.

Patti Mason is the Outreach & Watershed Coordinator for the Flathead Conservation District. She coordinates watershed group activities and all outreach efforts to promote conservation of natural resources—with a focus on soil and water resources—for children through adults.  She handles grant writing and management activities for stream restoration work, weed control, revegetation, and numerous other activities of the Flathead Conservation District.  Patti conducts a host of workshops, festivals, events, training, presentations, and educational efforts.

Prior to joining FCD, Patti worked as an environmental consultant for air & water quality. She was Earth Science Specialist for the Department of Natural Resources Conservation where she worked on Environmental Impact Statement (EIS) analyses for soils, wetlands, streams and vegetation (including old growth forest).  She worked on several revegetation projects. Patti was also an Instructor at Flathead Valley Community College in geology, earth science, environmental science, and geography.

She has a Bachelor of Science in Earth Science/Resource Management (Natural Science emphasis), and a Master of Science in Geology. She has also completed coursework in secondary education for earth and life science.


Flathead CORE
(Community of Resource Educators)

The Flathead Community of Resource Educators (CORE) is a network of individuals and organizations working together to increase awareness & understanding about the natural, historical and cultural resources of the Flathead Region.

Our goal is to link the community quickly and easily to the numerous resource educators available in the Flathead Valley. CORE promotes resource educators and programs that focus on the place we live, allowing our community members to gain a richer, fuller meaning of this incredible place we call home.


Flathead Lakers
Robin Steinkraus
Executive Director
P.O. Box 70
Polson, MT 59860

The Flathead Lakers is a nonprofit organization dedicated to protecting clean water, healthy ecosystems and lasting quality of life in the Flathead Watershed. Founded in 1958, the Flathead Lakers currently has over 1,500 members. The Flathead Lakers provides leadership and a strong voice for protecting and improving water quality through education, advocacy and stewardship programs.

Robin Steinkraus has been the Executive Director of the Flathead Lakers since 1997, where she works with a great volunteer board of directors and a small, committed staff.  Education, advocacy and stewardship project planning and management, fundraising, commenting on resource management policy and development proposals, and building cooperation for water quality protection are all in a day’s work.  She serves on the Flathead Basin Commission Water Quality Monitoring Committee, the River to Lake Initiative planning group, the CORE Watershed Education Committee, and the Flathead Basin Aquatic Invasive Species Work Group, and is a founding member of the Flathead Conservation Roundtable.

After growing up in Iowa, Robin received her bachelor’s degree in English and philosophy from Bemidji State University in Minnesota.  She and her husband Mark moved to Missoula where she received her master’s degree in environmental studies from the University of Montana. While in Missoula, she worked for the Montana Department of Natural Resources and Conservation’s Water Rights Bureau. Robin then worked at the University of Montana Flathead Lake Biological Station at Yellow Bay in the water quality research and monitoring program. Robin loves spending time with her daughter and son and exploring wild landscapes in the Flathead Watershed and beyond.


Flathead National Forest
Teresa Wenum
Conservation Educator
650 Wolfpack Way
Kalispell, MT 59901

The 2.4 million acre Flathead National Forest is one of 155 national forests and 20 grasslands managed by the Forest Service under the U.S. Department of Agriculture. Established in 1905, the Forest Service mission is to sustain health, diversity, and productivity of the Nation’s forests and grasslands to meet the needs of present and future generations

Teresa Wenum is the Conservation Education Specialist with Flathead National Forest. During her 15 years in this role, she’s most enjoyed partnership work, teaming up with groups and individuals from different organizations and agencies to accomplish common goals. She also takes great pleasure in teaching and learning right along side educators and students.  Teresa strives to help kids—including her own—stay connected to the outdoors, their local environment and community.  Managing the Forest Service Summit Nature Center, playing an active role on the Family Forestry Expo planning group, classroom visits, coordinating an artist-in-residence program and Project Learning Tree facilitator are a few of her many job related projects.

Teresa’s undergraduate degree is in Recreation Resources Management and she has a Master of Education degree.  Before her current position, Teresa was a seasonal state park ranger in Colorado, Forest Service wilderness ranger and trail crew member, and substitute teacher. 


Whitefish Lake Institute
Mike Koopal
Founder and Executive Director
550 E. 1st St. Suite 103
Whitefish, MT 59937

The Whitefish Lake Institute is committed to acquiring scientific research and engaging the local citizenry to protect and improve the Whitefish area lake resources of today, while building a collective vision for tomorrow.

Mike Koopal founded the Whitefish Lake Institute in 2005 and serves as the Executive Director. He’s originally a flatlander from Iowa with a biology degree from Luther College. Mike’s professional career began with the Montana Department of Fish, Wildlife and Parks as a fisheries technician working in the Clark Fork and Blackfoot River drainages. Mike then traveled to Nevada to study Lahontan Cutthroat trout for the Summit Lake Paiute Tribe, and in Alaska he worked with sockeye salmon for the Prince William Sound Aquaculture Corporation. Upon his return to Montana, Mike was a partner at Watershed Consulting for eight years where he specialized in fisheries related issues.

Mike serves on the Flathead Basin Commission Monitoring Committee, the Flathead CORE Watershed Education Committee, and assists the Bigfork Stormwater Advisory Committee. Mike also recently co-coordinated the 2nd Edition of the Montana Lake Book. In 2008, Mike was presented an Individual Achievement Award by the Montana Chapter of the American Fisheries Society for his outstanding contribution to the protection and enhancement of fisheries resources in Montana.

Mike’s recreational time is spent with his wife Mae and son Case, enjoying the seasonal changes of the Flathead Valley. They also enjoy increasing the sustainability of their small acreage by gardening and raising chickens and bees.


Figure 8.1: Partners in Place. Source: Todd Berget

For more information, send email to info@flatheadwatershed.org or info@flatheadcore.org.
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