UPPER COLUMBIA
CONSERVATION COMMISSION


Established to Protect Western Waters from
Aquatic Invasive Species Threats.

Members and Committees

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

Lori Curtis

Lori Curtis, Whitefish
UC3 Chair
Representing: Conservation districts.
Curtis is the Science and Education Director for the Whitefish Lake Institute where she is responsible for aquatic and watershed research and reporting, science and education programs, and management of the 'Living Wetlands Interpretive Nature Trail.' She serves as Vice Chair of the Flathead Conservation District, is an Associate Faculty Masters Instructor and graduate advisor for Prescott College and is a trained AIS inspector/decontaminator. A recipient of the Outstanding Writer Award from the Montana Chapter of the American Fisheries Society, and the Partner of the Year award from the Northwest Regional Resource Conservation & Development, Lori has a M.S. in Environmental Studies/Conservation Biology from Green Mountain College and has been involved in AIS programming since 2013. She is well-versed in all facets of project and organizational management, marketing, public relations, and financial management, and is a skilled grant writer and fundraiser.

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.

Dennis Claimont

Dennis Clairmont, Pablo
Representing: Confederated Salish & Kootenai Tribes
Dennis Clairmont was born in St. Ignatius and graduated from Ronan High School. His University of Montana classes were put aside for a stint in the US Navy where he was stationed in the Philippines during the Vietnam War. He finished his undergrad at Montana State University in agriculture production and range science. Dennis worked for tribal forestry and fire control before beginning a 38-year career in the Tribal Lands Department where he focused on range management and conservation. As he neared retirement, he wanted to apply his experience in helping Tribal Council where he now represents the Pablo District. Dennis is one of 12 siblings. He raised a family of his own and now resides on a small ranch near Pablo.

Brian Johnson

'BJ' Brian Johnson, Lakeside
Representing: Conservation, natural resource or hunting/fishing organization in the Upper/Middle Clark Fork River Basin (Sea Me Paddle)
Johnson, the owner and lead guide for 'Sea Me Paddle' Kayaking Tours, has been paddling for 20 years. His favorite saying is, "Folks, you can't see this from your couch!" BJ is Swiftwater Rescue certified and has his PADI Master Scuba Diver certification. He is a Wilderness Medical First Responder and is CPR/AED certified. When he is not out on the water he is participating as a member of the Flathead County Search & Rescue Team, Flathead County Swiftwater Rescue Group. BJ recently retired as a sheriff's diver after 29 years of service.

Mike Koopal

Mike Koopal, Columbia Falls
Representing: Member at Large
Koopal is the founder and executive director of the Whitefish Lake Institute. Mike serves on the Upper Columbia Conservation Commission where he chairs the Early Detection and Monitoring Committee, and the Flathead Basin Commission where he serves on the Executive Committee. He served on the Whitefish Climate Action Plan Committee, and provided technical assistance to the Bigfork Stormwater Advisory Committee. He was a co-coordinator of the second and third editions of the Montana Lake Book. Mike is a past recipient of the 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.

Paul Kusnierz

Paul Kusnierz, Boise Idaho
Representing: Hydroelectric utilities
Kusnierz is a fisheries biologist for Avista out of Noxon Montana. His responsibilities include water quality sampling and total dissolved gas monitoring on the lower Clark Fork River as well as collaborating with the states of Montana and Idaho on the implementation of fisheries-related protection, mitigation, and enhancement projects. Paul has been involved with aquatic invasive species issues in northwest Montana since 2016. He is a member of the Sanders County Aquatic Invasive Plants Task Force and serves on the Scientific Advisory Panel for the task force. Paul has served on the Upper Columbia Conservation Commission since 2017.

Phil Matson

Phil Matson, Columbia Falls
Representing: Private Landowners
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. 

Chris Parrott

Chris Parrott, Kalispell
Representing: Private Industry
Parrott is the General Manager for Jesco Marine and Power Sports, which has served Flathead Valley for over 35 years. Voted Flathead Valley's Best Boat Dealership, they are a Boat, ATV, Side by Side, PWC and Snowmobile Dealer.

Stacey Schnebel

Stacey Schnebel, Coram
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.

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.

Jeremy Anderson

Jeremy Anderson, Corvallis
Representing: Conservation, natural resource or hunting/fishing organization in the Bitterroot River Basin (Bitterroot Chapter of Trout Unlimited)
Anderson lives in Corvallis, Montana with his wife and two children.  He is a graduate of the University of Iowa with degrees in Biomedical Engineering and Dentistry and has operated Victor Dental Clinic since 2008.  Currently he serves as the President of the Bitterroot Chapter of Trout Unlimited.  As an intrepid angler he has been fortunate enough to fly fish many places across the globe and coming home to the pristine waters of the Bitterroot never gets tiring.  His passion lies in preserving and protecting this wonderful watershed and fishery that we have the privilege of calling home.

Rob Rich

Rob Rich, Condon
Representing: Conservation, natural resource or hunting/fishing organization in the Swan River Basin (Swan Valley Connections)
Rich works as the Conservation & Education Associate for Swan Valley Connections. He coordinates a variety of monitoring and restoration projects advancing watershed health, and he teaches in SVC's college field programs and Master Naturalist program, among other things.

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.

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 UC3, including:

Michelle Cox

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

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.

Joanne Grady

Joanne Grady, US Fish & Wildlife Service
Aquatic Invasive Species Coordinator, Region 6

Jennifer Anders

Jennifer Anders, Northwest Power & Conservation Council
Anders was appointed to the Northwest Power & Conservation Council in January 2013 by Governor Steve Bullock. She worked closely with Governor Bullock during his 2009-2012 tenure as Montana's Attorney General, tackling a number of high profile issues including energy development, water quality, climate change, public land management, and interstate water compact allocations. She has spent her entire professional career in public service, working for four separate Attorneys General in both the civil and criminal arena. She has a law degree from the University of Montana and an undergraduate degree from the University of California, Santa Barbara. She is an avid skier and dedicated practitioner of hapkido, tai chi and qigong.

Staff

Jennifer Anders

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, 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.

Committees

EDUCATION & OUTREACH
CHAIR: Lori Curtis
Education and outreach planning and coordination, AIS training for educators

EARLY DETECTION & MONITORING
CHAIR: Chris Downs
Sample data (eDNA and microscopy) spatially represented on GIS maps including data gaps and reducing sampling redundancy. Annual Upper Columbia River Basin Aquatic Invasive Species Early Detection and Monitoring Plan incorporating early detection sampling information, sample type and equipment decontamination protocols.

Legislative Committee (Ad Hoc)
CHAIR: Andrew Gorder
 

Contact Us

Kate Wilson
Commission Administrator
406.542.4282
Email me