This summer, remember that state law requires all motorists hauling watercraft – from trailers with motorboats or inflatable rafts to canoes and kayaks perched atop cars and pick-up trucks – to stop at inspection stations.
As part of the state’s aquatic invasive species prevention program, Montana Fish, Wildlife & Parks has 17 well-marked watercraft inspection stations set up around the state that will be in operation through September.
The annual education and enforcement effort, which this year includes multiple chances to win prizes from an array of local sponsors, is to further curb the risk of aquatic invasive species from attaining a foothold in Montana waters.
“One of Montana’s best defenses against spreading invasive species while enjoying the outdoors is to inspect, clean, drain and dry boats, trailers, and fishing gear after each use,” said Tom Boos, FWP’s AIS coordinator in Helena. “We can control the spread of these invasive plant and animal species if we don’t carry them from one water to the next.”
Montana law requires private motorists and outfitters and guides hauling watercraft – including motorboats, sailboats, kayaks, canoes, rowboats, rafts, jet skis and even small kick boats popular among some anglers – to always stop at AIS watercraft inspection stations for a brief interview and equipment check. Most inspections take fewer than five minutes, but failure to stop could lead to a $135 fine.
Montana’s “Inspect – Clean – Dry” slogan draws attention to a national problem threatening to take root in the West – aquatic hitchhikers. These non-native, destructive, and highly prolific AIS include harmful aquatic plants, animals, fish, and microscopic organisms, which include everything from invasive zebra mussels to whirling disease.
AIS can be easily transported from water to water by popular recreational activities like fishing and boating.
“If boaters and anglers get into the ‘inspect, clean, drain and dry’ habit we’ll be able to decrease the number of troubling and expensive introductions of harmful species in Montana,” Boos said.