The Battle Against Aquatic Invasive Species Intensifies

By Beacon Staff

The battle against aquatic invasive species continues in Montana, where wildlife officials are constantly trying to prevent milfoil, mussels and other nonnative species from contaminating local lakes and rivers. These species are transported mainly on recreational watercraft that are not properly cleaned. History has shown aquatic invasive species are a major threat to waterways and can significantly damage ecosystems and natural resources.

While Beaver Lake west of Whitefish remains open to recreation, a group of agencies have formed a task force to monitor and address the invasion of Eurasian watermilfoil. A large patch of the exotic weed was discovered near the boat ramp last fall. Mats, or benthic barriers, were placed on the weeds to limit growth and control further expansion in the lake.

An environmental assessment will be published later this spring, according to local Montana Fish, Wildlife and Parks officials who are joining the task force with members from the Montana Department of Natural Resources and Conservation, Flathead County, Flathead Basin Commission and Whitefish Lake Institute.

All boaters are being urged to always clean, dry, and inspect boats before and after launching on any waterway.

Glacier National Park has stepped up its efforts to inspect boats and spread awareness about invasive species. This year, along with motorized watercraft, all nonmotorized boats, like canoes and kayaks, are required to be checked and approved by park officials.

All watercraft must have a thorough boat inspection by a park employee upon every entry to the park. A free permit will be issued after the inspection depending on the complexity of the boat.

Though launch hours are not restricted, inspection hours are limited in Glacier. Between Memorial Day and Labor Day, permits are available from 7 a.m. to 7 p.m. at park headquarters in West Glacier, and 8 a.m. to 4:30 p.m. at all other locations, including the St. Mary Visitor Center, Two Medicine Ranger Station, and Many Glacier Ranger Station. Boaters wishing to launch on Bowman Lake should obtain a permit at park headquarters, but must immediately proceed to Bowman Lake after the inspection.

Invasive mussels have been found on boats within Montana and passing through the state over the past few years. Eurasian watermilfoil and other invasive aquatic plants are also present in western Montana waterways, necessitating a high degree of vigilance to prevent spread. Federal law prohibits the transportation and introduction of invasive species into the ecosystem in Glacier.

“We’ve got to keep these things out of this world-renowned system,” Superintendent Chas Cartwright said recently, adding, “Glacier deserves our best efforts.”

Biologists will monitor the patch of Eurasian watermilfoil in Beaver Lake to follow the effects of the initial control effort and to see if the milfoil expands to other parts of the lake, according to the FWP.

New information from ongoing sampling will be incorporated into the environmental analysis. The study may propose additional measures that could include chemical control as well as mechanical control of the weed, FWP said.

Boaters, anglers, and others should avoid the infested area near the boat ramp, which is designated by buoys and signs, FWP said.

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