MTPR

invasive species

A pile of mussels shells from a lake in Wisconsin.
Nicky Ouellet

  

Everyone agrees that the goal is to stop invasive zebra and quagga mussels from spreading, but there isn’t consensus on how to do that. This is where Montana is right now. There are a lot of different groups — state, tribal, federal, local and non-government — working to keep the mussels out, but they’re all working under different systems, with different rules to follow and different ideas about how to move forward.

Today we’re asking: Where are we cooperating, and where are we entangled in bureaucracy? This is SubSurface episode three: Shell Games.

A mussel and bait dump at an infested lake in Minnesota
Nicky Ouellet

Today, we’re diving into what we know about the mussels - what are they, where did they come from, how did they get here? What can we do to stop them from spreading? We’re trying to understand how those microscopic mussel babies ended up in two Montana reservoirs last summer -- and what our options are if more of them arrive. In this episode we’re tackling the Science of Spread.

This sign from Minnesota gives a glimpse into one possible future if invasive mussels become established in Montana.
Nicky Ouellet / Montana Public Radio

This is "SubSurface: Resisting Montana’s Underwater Invaders." I’m Nicky Ouellet, and in our first episode I’m taking us to the Midwest, to lakes where people have been fighting invasive zebra and quagga mussels for decades, to hear, see and smell what could become Montana’s mussel-encrusted future if a full-blown infestation happens here. These stories are reporting from the future.

Do you have a question about Montana's underwater invaders? Want to know more about how zebra and quagga mussels spread, how Montana is confronting the problem, or how states like Wisconsin and Minnesota are dealing with them? Leave your questions in the comment section here, or contact us on Facebook or Twitter. We'll do our best to answer them, and may include your question in a future episode.

That green and brown gunk is a mix of algae, plankton and bits of genetic material that hold the answer to whether Flathead Lake has mussels in it. One sample comes from 9 meters deep, the other from the surface.
Nicky Ouellet

As state legislators return to Helena next week to try to balance the state budget, one of the programs facing deep cuts is tasked with protecting rivers and lakes in the Flathead Basin from invasive mussels. They may not be able to continue that work.

The Flathead Basin Commission was supposed to oversee a new pilot program next summer that would shore up protections against zebra and quagga mussels, invasive species that have caused millions of dollars of damage in infested states and changed lake ecosystems in ways we still don’t really understand.

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