Montana FWP Accepting Input on Rule Changes to Combat Invasive Mussels

New regulations aimed at containing, detecting and preventing the spread of invasive mussels

The Montana Department of Fish, Wildlife and Parks is seeking comment on proposed changes that would increase efforts to combat the spread of invasive species.

The state is proposing new regulations aimed at containing, detecting and preventing the spread of invasive mussels, which cling to boats and other watercraft and can colonize rapidly, threatening ecological and economic consequences.

Comments are accepted through March 17.

Invasive mussel larvae were detected for the first time in Montana in October 2016 in Tiber Reservoir and “suspect” detections turned up in Canyon Ferry Reservoir, the Missouri River below Toston Dam, and the Milk River. The discovery triggered a natural resource emergency in Montana and led to several recommended strategies to manage the threat of invasive mussels spreading to other areas.

The proposed rule amendments outline several new regulations, including:

— Transporting lake and river water would be prohibited.

— Live bait and fish would be required to be transported in clean domestic water where allowed in current fishing regulations. Upon leaving Tiber and Canyon Ferry Reservoirs, bait and fish must be transported without water.

— Mandatory inspections of out-of-state motorized or nonmotorized watercraft prior to launching on any Montana waterbody.

— Mandatory inspections of motorized or nonmotorized watercraft traveling across the Continental Divide into the Columbia River Basin within Montana.

— Mandatory inspections of all motorized or nonmotorized watercraft coming off Tiber and Canyon Ferry reservoirs, and decontamination if necessary.

— Drain plugs would be required to be removed; if the watercraft doesn’t have drain plugs, reasonable measures must be taken to dry or drain all compartments, including bilges.

A public hearing on the proposed rule amendments is scheduled for March 14 in Helena at FWP Headquarters, 1420 E. 6th Ave. The hearing will begin at 6 p.m.

Comments can also be emailed to fwpexotics@mt.gov; or mailed to Montana Fish, Wildlife & Parks, Fisheries Division, P.O. Box 200701, Helena, MT 59620-0701.