In terms of aquatic invasive species (AIS), it’s been a pretty quiet year so far in Montana.
Perhaps it is an increased awareness of “Clean, Empty and Dry”. Perhaps the late onset of warmer weather has hampered the number of boats coming from areas where mussels are much more prevalent.
Whatever the reasons, of the 9,800 watercraft inspected in 2022 so far in Montana, only 16 have been found to be clogged with mussels. And looking at procedures, guidelines, and potential fines from Montana Fish, Wildlife and Parks, you don’t want to be number 17.
With Memorial Day weekend upon us—the unofficial start of summer—all Montana Aquatic Invasive Species Inspection Stations are now open on major travel routes. And with it, more emphasis on rules to protect our waters and prevent the spread of aquatic invasive species.
All boats must stop at all open boat inspection stations. Failure to stop at inspection stations can result in a fine of up to $500. I personally saw a vehicle pulling a boat in front of the Ravalli inspection post last summer, without stopping. A Montana law enforcement vehicle was in the station parking lot at the time, and the flashing blue lights came on!
So what happens when a mussel-fouled boat is intercepted? Montana inspectors usually clean it (good) then lock it to the trailer (not good) to prohibit launching. Inspectors then ask the owner which body of water they were destined for and contact authorities near that location, so they can arrange for follow-up and, if necessary, full decontamination when it reaches its destination.
Remember that the laws require that all watercraft be inspected, motorized or not. Float tubes, kayaks, canoes, paddle boards, etc. should also be inspected. You can learn more about Montana’s AIS inspection stations here.
Be careful. Be careful. To be cleaned. To be emptied. Be dry.
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