This West Is OUR West

Janssen tapped chair of the Flathead Basin Commission


BL Azure | Mar 7, 2019

Char-Koosta News

CSKT Natural Resource Department Director Rich Janssen now chairs the Flathead Basin Commission, an advisory board with the mandate to monitor and promote high water quality standards in the Flathead Basin. Janssen, who serves as the CSKT representative on the FBC, is the first tribal member to serve as chair.


POLSON — The director of the Confederated Salish and Kootenai Tribes Natural Resources Department, Rich Janssen, was named the Chair of the Flathead Basin Commission last year. He is the first member of the tribal confederacy to serve as chair of the commission.

“The Flathead Basin Commission’s focus is on the water quality and resources in the basin. One of my main goals is to keep the Tribal Council abreast of the issues related to protecting the water quality in the Flathead River Basin,” Janssen said. “Another (goal) is building consensus on basin issues among private citizen groups and various related organizations. There is a very broad and diverse group of concerned people and organizations involved in the protection of the water quality in the Flathead Basin.”

The governmental entities include local and area tribal governments, the State of Montana and some of its various departments, and the federal government via the Environmental Protection Agency, Bonneville Power Administration, Bureau of Land Management, Bureau of Indian Affairs, and Hungry Horse Dam.

Janssen has served on the FBC since 2002; he was tabbed the vice-chair in 2017, then chair in 2018. The CSKT have had a tribal member commissioner on the FBC since its inception in 1983. The FBC is an advisory group.

Janssen said some of the major threats to the highly pristine waters of the Flathead Basin include the aquatic invasive species especially zebra and quagga mussels, mining in Canada along the North Fork of the Flathead River, bull trout habitat recovery and protection, septic leakage and oil and coal trains.

“It is important for the Tribes to be informed and involved in issues in aboriginal territory,” Janssen said. “Any degradation of water quality in the basin not only negatively affects tribal people it adversely affects all people in the basin and beyond. The water should provide for a healthy fishery, drinkable water and healthy recreational activities such as swimming, boating, and fishing. A degraded water resource in aboriginal territory has an impact on tribal treaty rights. We have a voice in the environmental protection of the resources on an international scale.”

The Montana Legislature created the non-governmental Flathead Basin Commission in 1983 with the mandate to monitor and protect the water quality of the Flathead River watershed — the basin is comprised of 6,000 acres of forests, agricultural land, and communities as well as Flathead River and Flathead Lake tributaries.

Major tributaries that are part of the watershed include the North, Middle and South forks that flow into the Flathead River that flows into the Flathead Lake.

The other major Flathead Basin tributaries are the Stillwater, Swan, and Whitefish rivers that flow into Flathead Lake apart from the Flathead River. The Jocko River also flows into the Flathead River near Dixon.

There are also several small streams/creeks that flow into Flathead Lake and/or the Flathead River before it flows into the Clark Fork River near Paradise. The Clark Fork River from there flows into Lake Pend Oreille where it loses its name.

“We only have one earth and it is our tribal spiritual and philosophical mandate to protect it for the future generations,” Janssen said. “I am very blessed to be involved in that protection today for those of tomorrow.”

owned by private citizens throughout the area. Our county and town officials are mere mannequins in the process. pretty much voiceless.