Boat propeller with quagga mussels - NPS photo
“Aquatic Invasive Species (AIS) are aquatic and terrestrial organisms and plants that have been introduced into new ecosystems (i.e. Great Lakes, San Francisco Bay, Florida, Hawaii) throughout the United States and the world and are both harming the natural resources in these ecosystems and threatening the human use of these resources. AIS are also considered to be ‘nuisance’ species or ‘exotic’ species and the terms are often used interchangeably.” NOAA Research
from NPS Glacier National Park:
Glacier National Park personnel performed almost 1,300 boat inspections during this past summer intended to reduce the risk of unintentional movement of aquatic invasive species (AIS) into park waters.
New Zealand mud snails - Nature Conservancy photo
“We put a lot of energy and resources into this program, but realize this is just the beginning of a long-term effort to protect the pristine waters of Glacier National Park and the Crown of the Continent Ecosystem against the devastating effects of aquatic invasive species,” said Glacier National Park Superintendent Chas Cartwright.
Glacier National Park contains the headwaters of three continental-scale watersheds. An infestation would pose a serious threat to all downstream waterways.
In 2010 the park initiated a boat inspection and permit program that required all motorized boats users to obtain a boat-launch permit prior to launching in any water body within the park. Inspections were only focused on boats believed to pose a high risk of transport of aquatic invasive species to park waters. The program also included an educational awareness component.
In May of this year, the park began an expanded boat inspection and permit program in response to an increasing threat of aquatic invasive species, which required an inspection and permit for all boaters. A free permit is required to launch any motorized or trailered watercraft in Glacier National Park. Hand-propelled water craft and personal flotation devices such as float tubes do not require a permit at this time. After an inspection of the watercraft indicates no signs of aquatic invasive species present, a launch permit will be issued. Boats must be clean, drained and thoroughly dry, including the bilge areas and livewells, upon inspection. A new permit is required upon each entry into the park.
From January to the beginning of October, 1,257 boats were inspected in the park. Six boats were denied launch permits for a variety of reasons, including that some that were not clean enough to properly inspect. No aquatic invasive species were found. The majority of the inspections were boats launching in Lake McDonald. Approximately 88% of the boats were registered from Montana with the remainder coming from 18 states and two Canadian Provinces.
Park visitors planning to launch a boat into any park waters throughout the winter are encouraged to call the park at 406-888-7801 to arrange for an inspection. Launching a boat without an inspection in Glacier National Park threatens park resources and is illegal, with a fine up to $500. Waterton Lakes National Park also has a boat inspection program.
Cartwright said, “Trailered boats with mussels attached to the boat and/or the trailer have been detected in Montana, as well as some aquatic invasive plants in local waters recently. This is a serious threat and we must be proactive to reduce any risk.”
Park managers and specialists recently met with Glen Canyon Recreation Area representatives to learn and share ideas on additional prevention measures, and to develop a response plan if something is detected in the area. Glacier National Park is also cooperating with other federal, state and local agencies and organizations, and Parks Canada to protect the lakes, rivers and streams of Montana.
Cartwright conveys his appreciation to park visitors for helping maintain the pristine waters in Glacier National Park by complying with the boat inspection and permit program.
Purple loosestrife - Nature Conservancy photo
Help Stop Aquatic Invasive Species for additional information about the NPS program and the AIS threat to the park.
Aquatic Invasive Species Threats to Glacier - NPS AIS “Resource Bulletin in PDF format that includes information about non-native species already in the park as well as “what’s on the way.” Primary threats include: Zebra mussels/quagga mussels, New Zealand mud snails, Eurasian watermilfoil and Purple loosestrife.
Glacier Park Volunteer Opportunities includes information about specific opportunities for volunteers, including work in the Aquatic Invasive Species program.
AIRD: Aquatic Invasions, Research Directory for AIS policy, programs and related information.
National Invasive Species Information Center for AIS resources in Montana. Click here for photographs of Nonindigenous Aquatic Species.
Malcolm R. Campbell is the author of three novels set in Glacier National Park, including the recently released contemporary fantasy “Sarabande” available on Kindle.
His nonfiction about Glacier Park includes “High Water in 1964″ in A View Inside Glacier National Park: 100 Years 100 Stories (NPS-produced paperback) and Bears, Where They Fought: Life in Glacier Park’s Swiftcurrent Valley (99 cents on Kindle).