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Stopping the tiniest hitchhikers

FWP has inspected more than 23,000 watercraft as part of its effort to keep the mussels, which can cause millions of dollars of damage to hydropower dams and irrigation systems, out of Montana’s waterways.
Katrin Frye

Boaters traveling from water body to water body, and travelers passing through the state may have noticed something new this summer.

Mandatory boat check stations are not new to the state, but increased funding means there are more of them.

Aquatic Invasive Species Specialist Linnaea  Schroeer with Fish, Wildlife and Parks said the state set up 20-mandatory check stations this summer, up from 16 the year before.

She said Montana is one of only 5-states free of zebra and quagga mussels.

The others include Washington, Oregon, Idaho, and Wyoming.

There are some isolated spots within the state with Eurasian Water milfoil, and Schroeer with Fish, Wildlife and Parks said they want to keep it that way.

“We believe it’s just as important to keep things from being moved around inside the state as keeping things from entering the state, so it’s really a two-pronged approach,” Schroeer said.

The state has seasonally permanent check stations in places like the Noxon Reservoir where there’s a known problem with Eurasian Water milfoil, as well as at major border entry points. Schroeer said there are also several roving check stations set up that work along different recreation zones including the Bitteroot Valley, Swan Valley, and Madison River among others.

She said the mantra “clean, drain, dry,” is something they hope will become second nature to people; akin to putting their campfire dead out. She urges people to be aware of their equipment, and check it periodically.

“By you taking action, you could be safeguarding your favorite lake, and the rest of the water bodies in the state,” Schroeer said.

Schroeer said what’s commonly unknown is the danger posed by standing water transported from one water body to another. That can be harboring microscopic hitchhikers, and must be drained.

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