Across the state, Montana Fish, Wildlife and Parks watercraft inspection station staff are checking hundreds of vessels each day.
These vessels come from all over the state, with many coming from out of state looking to enjoy some of the great boating Montana has to offer.
The discovery of mussel larvae in water samples from Tiber Reservoir last fall and the sample from Canyon Ferry Reservoir that was suspect for the larvae prompted a significant increase in Montana’s AIS prevention efforts.
Among other things, this has meant a doubling of watercraft inspection stations around the state and a change in statute to require more watercraft inspection requirements. This year all watercraft coming into Montana from out of state must be inspected prior to launching. The same holds true for all watercraft traveling across the Continental Divide into the Columbia River Basin. Also, watercraft leaving Tiber and Canyon Ferry Reservoirs must be inspected and, if necessary, decontaminated. And, like last year, all watercraft must stop when they encounter an inspection station.
The increase in inspection stations, coupled with the new statutes have kept FWP wardens busy. So far, this year nearly 10,000 watercraft have come through FWP AIS inspection stations. Wardens have written over 35 citations for not stopping at inspection stations. However, the focus for wardens is to educate watercraft owners about the dangers AIS pose to Montana’s waters and the new requirements for ensuring all boats are complying with the law.
“It’s really all about protecting our waterways,” said FWP’s deputy chief of enforcement, Ron Jendro. “We want to make sure boaters are following the law. At the same time, we want to help everyone understand the importance of Clean, Drain, Dry and keeping our waters free of invasive species.”
The outreach from FWP wardens and their interaction with watercraft owners is important.
“We are getting into the heart of boating season and our AIS staff’s field season,” said FWP’s AIS bureau chief, Tom Woolf. “This is really a team effort and enforcement staff play a critical role in getting the word out.”
Along with operating inspection stations from Sula to Culbertson, AIS staff have started their monitoring work, collecting water samples state-wide looking for invasive mussel larvae.
So far AIS monitoring crews have collected about 60 samples and samples will continue to be collected and analyzed throughout the season. Before the season is over, more than 1,000 samples from waterbodies across the state will be analyzed.
“This is a big year for us, but with a boost in seasonal staff to help with inspection stations and monitoring, we’re certainly up to the challenge,” Woolf said.
For more information on inspection stations, local boater programs and FWP’s mussel response, check out musselresponse.mt.gov.