UPPER COLUMBIA
CONSERVATION COMMISSION


Established to Protect Western Waters from
Aquatic Invasive Species Threats.

Members and Staff

The following individuals have been appointed by Governor Gianforte to serve on the commission:

Stacey Schnebel

Stacey Schnebel, Coram (Chair)
Representing: Electric Cooperatives

Schnebel represents the Electric Cooperatives of Montana and is a Trustee on the Board at Flathead Electric Cooperative which is headquartered in Kalispell MT. With her husband, she owns two local businesses, Stonefly Lounge and UnderCurrent Web, and is raising two elementary school aged children in a log cabin outside Glacier National Park.

Tom Woolf

Thomas Woolf, Helena (Vice Chair)
Representing: Montana Invasive Species Council

Woolf has worked on aquatic invasive species issues for nearly twenty years, most recently with the Idaho State Department of Agriculture developing and implementing Idaho's AIS program.  In 2017 he started as the AIS Bureau Chief for Montana Fish Wildlife and Parks and currently manages the state's aquatic invasive species program.

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Onno Wieringa, Missoula
Representing: Conservation, natural resource or hunting/fishing organization in the Flathead Basin 

Onno was born in Conrad Montana, and graduated Montana State University with a Bachelor of Science in Commerce. He later went on to found and operate Glacier Raft Company in West Glacier and Polson, from 1976-2014. In the winter months, he managed and operated Alta Ski Area in Utah, until 2016. He founded and operated the Alta Environmental Center from 2008 to 2016. Since 1976 he has lived and worked in recreation on the Middle and North Forks of the Flathead River in a business that prides itself, and owes much of the company’s success, to a healthy river ecosystem.  As soon as he was aware of the threat of aquatic invasive species, his energy and attention was focused on keeping up to date on all current management efforts. He has worked with the State of Montana through Fish Wildlife and Parks and the Flathead Basin Commission, and is proud to work to prevent the devastating outcome that aquatic invasive species would bring to the Flathead Valley. 

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Tom Ray, Kalispell
Representing: Private Landowner

Mr. Ray has over 30 years of experience in the Forest Products Industry. This includes both manufacturing and forest management responsibilities while working for Weyerhaeuser, Plum Creek Timber and Georgia-Pacific. The manufacturing portfolio he oversaw included, lumber, plywood, MFD and reman operations in the inland Northwest. Forest management
responsibilities included all aspects of growing and harvesting timber across a large northwest
operation in several states, and included an emphasis on optimizing the value of each acre. Tom has been a key negotiator of large scale conservation deals to optimize value for the landowner while keeping the lands in production for timber and wildlife over the long term. Tom has also been involved in aquatic issues through his 19 years of work with implementation of
Plum Creeks Native Fish Habitat Conservation plan on their forestlands in Northwest Montana.

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Arthur Potts, Noxon
Representing: Hydroelectric utilities

Arthur D. Potts is the Terrestrial Program Leader for Avista in Noxon, Montana.  His responsibilities include serving as the Avista representative on the Clark Fork Settlement Agreement Terrestrial Resources Technical Advisory Committee and implementing/overseeing wildlife habitat management and protection, wetland enhancements, shoreline management, recreation management, black cottonwood enhancement, timber management, and AIS programs related to the Clark Fork Settlement Agreement.  Prior to joining Avista, Mr. Potts worked in environmental consulting for more than 11 years.  Based in Austin, Texas, he focused primarily on NEPA permitting, wetland delineation and threatened and endangered species assessments throughout the southern U.S. Mr. Potts holds a B.S. in Wildlife and Fisheries Management from Texas A&M University.

Phil Matson

Phil Matson, Columbia Falls
Representing: Member at Large

Matson began working at the Flathead Lake Biological Station (FLBS) in 2001 and has engaged himself with a variety of researchers on a myriad of projects. A majority of his work involves GIS and Remote Sensing with the underlying focus of relating floodplain habitat complexity to biotic and anthropogenic metrics and of modeling streams at differing discharge rates as they relate to geomorphic work. Phil also collects and analyzes aerial photos; coordinates data collection and maintenance of the RiverNet and LakeNet networks; and collects physical, chemical, and biological data as part of the long-term Flathead Lake Monitoring Project and Whitefish Lake Monitoring Projects. Of note he has collaborated on the Biocomplexity Project on the Nyack Floodplain, Montana; the Snake River Project on the Middle Fork of the Snake River, Idaho, and the Reaches Project on the Yakima River, Washington. He has also participated on projects including the Salmonid Rivers Observatory Network, Glacier Vital Signs in Glacier National Park, Glacier Assessment Project, and the Transboundary Flathead River Coal Mining Initiative, as well as assisting in the ecology courses taught to summer students at the station. Most recently, Phil is the GIS database manager for the Crown Manager's Partnership and coordinates the Aquatic Invasive Species sampling efforts for FLBS. 

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Rae Lynn Hays, Eureka
Representing: Conservation Districts

Hays is the District Administrator for Lincoln Conservation District.

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Bruce Vincent, Libby
Representing: Private Industry

Bruce Vincent is a third generation logger from Libby, Montana. During the past 25 years, he has given motivational speeches throughout the United States and the world, has testified on natural resource issues before Congress and has appeared on several news programs such as “60 Minutes”. Bruce has been named Timberman of the Year in Montana, National Forest Activist of the Year, the Agri-Women’s 2007 Veritas Award Winner, and in 2004 received the inaugural Presidential Preserve America Award from President Bush. Bruce has been married to his wife Patti Jo for 39 years and has four children, two sons-in-law, one daughter-in-law, and eleven grandchildren. His current activities represent a family commitment to responsible environmentalism.

Andrew Gorder

Andrew Gorder, Missoula
Representing: Conservation, natural resource or hunting/fishing organization in the Upper/Middle Clark Fork River Basin (Clark Fork Coalition)

Gorder currently serves as legal director for the Clark Fork Coalition, a non-profit organization dedicated to protecting and restoring the Clark Fork River basin.  In this role, he develops and advances advocacy strategies aimed at protecting watershed, and conducts research and interpretation of water rights, water law, and water policy.  He previously worked as a Water Master for the Montana Water Court, and holds a B.A. in Journalism from the Univ. of WY and a J.D. from the Univ. of MT School of Law. In his spare time, Andrew enjoys hunting, fishing, floating and generally enjoying all that Montana has to offer.

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Vacant
Representing: Conservation, natural resource or hunting/fishing organization in the Bitterroot River Basin 

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Vacant
Representing: Conservation, natural resource or hunting/fishing organization in the Swan/Blackfoot River Basin 

Paul Bradford

Paul Bradford, Libby
Representing: Conservation, natural resource or hunting/fishing organization in the Kootenai River Basin (Libby Rod & Gun Club)

Bradford, a resident of Libby, Montana since 2006, first came to Eureka, Montana in 1976 to start a career with the US Forest Service as a forester. Since retiring from the agency in 2014, he has spent many wonderful days fishing the lakes, streams, and rivers of Montana, including time in his drift boat on the Kootenai River as a licensed guide.

Larry Lack

Larry Lack, Thompson Falls
Representing: Conservation, natural resource or hunting/fishing organization in the Lower Clark Fork River Basin (Sanders County Aquatic Plant Task Force)

Lack moved to Montana in 1999 after a career in the military and a paper mill in Washington State. He's an avid volunteer, helping the US Forest Service, Montana FWP and Sanders County. He currently serves as the Chair of the Sanders County Aquatic Invasive Plant Task Force, and participates in the Citizen Advisory Committee, the Resource Advisory Committee and the Game Commission.

Martin Charlo, Pablo

Martin Charlo, Pablo
Representing: Confederated Salish & Kootenai Tribes, Treasurer

Martin Charlo was born in St. Ignatius and lived in Arlee where he was homeschooled until the fifth grade. He graduated from Arlee High School and went on to attend the University of Washington where he majored in Political Science and served on Associated Students of the University of Washington Board of Directors.  Martin moved home to care for his Father who had a stroke. Martin continued his formal education at Salish Kootenai College. He went on to work various jobs including the Native American Program Director at Travelers Rest State Park. He worked 14 years within CSKT at positions at the Preservation Office, Salish Kootenai Housing Authority, Kicking Horse Job Corps and the Office of Administration Contracts and Grants Office. Most recently he worked as a Re-entry Case Manager for the Tribal Defenders office. Martin was elected as the Pablo District Council representative in 2019 and started his term in 2020.

Legislative Members (non-voting)

Mike Cuffe

Senator Mike Cuffe, Eureka (Senate District 1)

Senator Cuffe is a native of Lincoln County, Montana. He graduated from Lincoln County High School and earned his degree in Journalism from the University of Montana at Missoula. While many people in his generation elected to leave Lincoln County to pursue jobs elsewhere, Cuffe chose to build his career and raise his family in Northwest Montana. Cuffe started his career as a journalist working in the newspaper business in Libby, Montana. It was here that he developed his organizational and communication skills and a desire to get involved in politics on a local level. These skills eventually enabled him to participate in politics on a national level as a staffer for a Montana Congressman in Washington DC. Upon his return to Montana, Cuffe was recruited by the timber industry and achieved top management positions throughout his extensive career in the development of the wood products business in Lincoln County. Cuffe returned to his communications background and ran Big Sky Publishing in Eureka, Montana.

Janet Ellis

Senator Janet Ellis, Helena (Senate District 41)

Senator Ellis currently represents Senate District 41, where she specializes in the state budget, election law, state pension plans, and energy issues. She also served in the Montana House of Representatives from 2015 to 2018. Prior to retiring in 2018, Janet worked for Montana Audubon for 29 years to protect wildlife and wildlife habitat through public policy, with an emphasis on land use planning, stream setbacks, wind energy, and more. She holds a degree in biology from the University of Montana. She lives in Helena with her husband; they have an adult son.

David Fern

Rep. David Fern, Whitefish (House District 5)

Fern is a Democratic politician serving on the Montana House of Representatives, representing Montana's 5th district. Formerly, he served on the Whitefish School District board of trustees, a position he was elected to in 1992 and held for about 24 years. During this time, he supported the personalization of education. He currently serves on the Local Government Interim Committee.

Neil Duram

Rep. Neil Duram, Eureka (House District 2)

Duram was elected to the Montana House of Representatives in 2019. He's a member of the Business and Labor Committee; the Energy, Telecommunications, and Federal Relations Committee; and the Fish, Wildlife and Parks Committee. Duram currently serves as a Sergeant for the Montana Highway Patrol.

Ex-officio

In addition to above appointed (voting) members, a number of federal agencies serve an ex-officio role on the UC 3, including:

Michelle Cox

Michelle Cox, US Forest Service
Invasive Species Coordinator, Region 1

Michelle facilitates coordination between ten National Forests and Grasslands across the Northern Region (R1). Her focus is providing technical and program management assistance, training, and resources to the invasive species managers as well as develop regional guidance and protocol. Her work experience is broad and includes ecological/habitat restoration, invasive and rare plant and wildlife management, fire effects monitoring, and regulatory consultations. She spent 13 years with the National Park Service and Bureau of Land Management and ten years with Navy Region Southwest before joining the USFS.

Chris Downs

Chris Downs, National Park Service
Aquatic & Physical Science Programs Manager, Glacier National Park

Downs received a BS in Natural Resource Management in 1990 from the University of Massachusetts at Amherst and an MS in Fish and Wildlife Management from Montana State University - Bozeman in 1995. Chris spent 10 years with the Idaho Department of Fish and Game as a Senior Fisheries Research Biologist leading native salmonid conservation and restoration programs in the Kootenai and Clark Fork river systems. Chris joined the National Park Service as Glacier National Park's Aquatic and Physical Science Programs Manager in 2008. In this role Chris led the development of Glacier's Aquatic Invasive Species prevention program and co-authored the park's AIS Emergency Response Plan. He has participated in inter-agency AIS prevention efforts in the Flathead River Basin for over 10 years.

Heidi McMaster

Heidi McMaster, US Bureau of Reclamation
Pacific Northwest Regional Hazmat and Invasive Species Coordinator

McMaster previously worked in the Lower Colorado Regional Office for the Bureau of Reclamation for 7 years before taking moving the Pacific Northwest. Heidi obtained her Masters of Public Health in Environmental and Occupational Health from the University of Nevada Las Vegas in 2014 and has a Bachelors Degree in Environmental Studies focusing on Restoration Ecology. She previously worked on the Yucca Mountain Project as a DOE contractor in the Engineering Department and is US Army Disabled Veteran (Chemical Operations Specialist).

Monica Pokorny

Monica Pokorny, Natural Resource Conservation Service
Plant Materials Specialist for the Natural Resources Conservation Service

Pokorny is the Plant Materials Specialist for the NRCS where she tests plant materials and planting technologies for conservation uses. She received her MS from Montana State University in Land Resources and Environmental Sciences and a BA in Biology from the University of Montana. Her work experience is broad and includes ecological restoration, invasive plant management, land management, and wildlife habitat analysis. Monica has experience researching and implementing strategies to convert weed dominated uplands to desired plant communities using revegetation and restoration techniques. Her technical interests include habitat restoration and plant-animal interactions. 

Theresa Thom

Theresa A Thom, US Fish & Wildlife Service
Aquatic Invasive Species Coordinator, Pacific Region 

Theresa currently focuses on AIS-related activities throughout the Pacific Region, including Washington, Oregon, Idaho, parts of Montana, Hawaii, and the Pacific Islands through the Service’s Fish and Aquatic Conservation (FAC) Program. After earning both a M.S. in Conservation Ecology and Sustainable Development and a PhD in Ecology from the University of Georgia, she has worked on water resource issues in both North and South America for more than 20 years. Throughout her career, she has focused on a variety of issues including aquatic invasive species, native fisheries, and water quality monitoring in diverse habitats including floodplain forests in the Southeast and springs in the Mojave Desert. Growing up in Minnesota near the Mississippi River and spending every summer at “the lake” helped kindle Theresa's passion for water resource conservation, which has been a focus of her work and life adventures.

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Jacob Williams, US Army Corps of Engineers

Williams has 8 years of experience working in the environmental engineering field. As a project manager for the US Army Corps of Engineers, he manages projects related to the whole environmental remediation process.

Staff

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Kate Wilson, Commission Administrator

Kate Wilson has been working in the water world for over a decade. Her initial focus was on water quality and quantity issues in the Pend Oreille Basin for the Lakes Commission, an advisory board to the Governor of Idaho. Stemming from that work, Kate became highly engaged in the aquatic invasive species (AIS) issue, pursuing a Master’s of Science at the University of Florida where she worked for the Center for Aquatic and Invasive Plants. After graduate school, she moved to Canada to develop a comprehensive AIS Program for Alberta. Kate took a position with the Montana Department of Natural Resources and Conservation (DNRC) in 2017, where she serves a dual role as Commission Administrator for two legislatively created Commissions - the Upper Columbia Conservation Commission, focused on aquatic invasive species prevention west of the Continental Divide, and the Flathead Basin Commission, focused on water quality and natural resource protection. She is dedicated to protecting the freshwater resources of the west and all the native critters that live there.

Jennifer Anders

Cassidy Bender, Commission Coordinator

Cassidy obtained her Bachelor's Degree in Creative Writing from Saginaw Valley State University in Michigan. She is enthusiastic about combining her love of words with her love of our natural resources. Her background includes invasive species management in Minnesota for the MN & IA Conservation Corps, volunteer coordination, education & outreach, interpretive guiding, and noxious weed management for Montana FWP at Bannack State Park, Wilderness monitoring and trail maintenance for the USFS Wilderness Crew in the Great Bear Wilderness and most recently, a dual role as Commission Coordinator for Montana DNRC staffing two legislatively created Commissions- the Flathead Basin Commission and the Upper Columbia Conservation Commission.