Keeping the Clark Fork Invader-Free
The Clark Fork Coalition and other watershed groups are working alongside agencies to monitor the presence of aquatic invaders and to help stop their spread.
Montana Mussel Response: The Montana Mussel Response program is a joint implementation team led by Montana Fish, Wildlife and Parks and the Department of Natural Resources and Conservation. Created in response to the discovery of mussels in Montana in 2016, they are an important resource for current regulations, up-to-date maps of inspection and decontamination stations, and an interactive Mussel Story Map.
Confederated Salish & Kootenai Tribes: The Confederated Salish & Kootenai Tribes are taking action to protect their waterways from invasive mussel and other aquatic invasives, and their website is an important place to visit before you plan to boat on any Flathead Reservation waterbody.
Flathead Basin Commission: Protecting Flathead Lake since 1983, FBC works to protect the Flathead Lake aquatic environment; the waters that flow into, out of, or are tributary to the lake; and the natural resources and environment of the Flathead Basin.
What are Aquatic Invasive Species?
Aquatic invasive species (AIS) are non-native, nuisance plants, snails, or mussels that typically enter waterways via unintended human introduction. Unfortunately, several types of aquatic invasive species have taken root in the Clark Fork watershed. To-date, Eurasian milfoil, curlyleaf pondweed, saltceder, purple loosestrife, flowering rush and yellowflag iris are the most prevalent invaders in the basin, but with the discovery of mussel larvae at Tiber Reservoir and suspect detections at Canyon Ferry, invasive mussels are now at the doorstep of the Clark Fork Watershed. Once invasive mussels are established they’re nearly impossible to eradicate, so preventing their spread is the best course of action to protect the Clark Fork Watershed.
Why are they a problem?
Aquatic invasive species can cause widespread ecological havoc and economic harm — for example, scientists estimate that over 180 invasive species in the Great Lakes cost more than $200 million annually in lost revenue and prevention strategies. Last fall invasive mussel larvae were discovered in samples from Tiber Reservoir and now we are working overtime to prevent their spread.
- Crashing fish populations
- Loss of native flora and fauna
- Decline in water quality
- Increase in the frequency of toxic algae blooms
- Reductions in local tourism, recreation, and property values
- Beaches covered with sharp shells
- Increased costs for cleaning and maintaining water system pipes used in domestic, municipal, agricultural, and hydroelectric facilities.
Did you know? The Columbia River Basin is the last mussel free watershed in the lower 48! And the Clark Fork sits at the headwaters. Whatever enters our system eventually makes it downstream. We have a duty to protect our watershed and others from the devastating effects of these non-native invasive mussels.
What you can do:
Besides stopping at watercraft inspection stations, boat users, anglers, and recreationists need to go the extra mile to prevent the devastating impacts of invasive species on our blue ribbon trout streams and pristine high alpine lakes.
To help prevent the spread of weeds, mussels and snails take the critical step to clean, drain, and dry boats, boots and gear after spending time on rivers or lakes.
CLEAN. Completely remove all mud, water, and vegetation before leaving the access areas.
- Inspect your boat, trailer, and all gear. Pay attention to crevices and hidden areas.
- Remove all vegetation (by hand or sprayer).
- Remove all mud (use a pressurized power sprayer, found at most do-it-yourself car washes). The hot water kills organisms and the pressure removes mud and vegetation. No need to use chemicals or soap.
- Dispose of debris in trash or on dry land away from water, docks or boat ramps.
DRAIN. Drain all water from watercraft and equipment.
- Drain or remove water from boat, bilge, live well, engine, internal compartments, and bait buckets by removing drain plugs before leaving the access area.
DRY. Aquatic invaders can survive only in water and wet areas.
- Dry your watercraft and fishing equipment thoroughly; this will kill most invasive species. The longer you keep your watercraft, trailer, waders, and other equipment outside in the hot sun between fishing trips, the better.
Speak up to protect our waters! See a suspicious-looking aquatic plant? A non-native mussel? A boat coated in weeds? Call 1-800-TIP-MONT to report what you see on our lakes, rivers, and streams.
New Rules & Regulations:
Boats moving from infested water bodies to non-infested waterbodies are the primary way invasive mussels are spread. New rules and laws that affect boaters and anglers will be in effect by April 15.
New Regulations for Boaters and Anglers on Non Reservation Land:
- Watercraft coming into Montana from out-of-state must be inspected prior to launching on any Montana waterbody.
- Boats from out-of-state can stop at any roadside inspection station or visit any FWP regional or area office, where they’ll be inspected and, if necessary, perform a decontamination.
- This would be the out-of-state’s boat’s pre-launch inspection.
- Watercraft traveling across the Continental Divide into the Columbia River Basin within Montana must be inspected prior to launch.
- Boats can stop at any roadside inspection station or visit any FWP regional or area office, where they’ll be inspected and, if necessary, perform a decontamination.
- Required inspection and, when needed, decontamination at Canyon Ferry and Tiber reservoirs for boats coming off the water.
- Prohibited transport of lake and river water.
- Live bait and fish must be transported in clean domestic water where allowed in current fishing regulations.
- Bait and fish from Tiber and Canyon Ferry reservoirs must be transported without water.
New Regulations for the Flathead Indian Reservation:
The CSKT are working to prevent the spread of mussels by enacting new regulations to protect the sacred waters of the Salish, Kootenai, and Pend Oreille peoples.
- No motorized watercraft on any Reservation water (with the exception of Flathead Lake and Flathead River below the dam).
- Pablo Reservoir and Ninepipes are closed to all watercraft.
- Inspection prior to launch is required for all watercraft (including but not limited to canoes, kayaks, rafts, personal floatation devices and any equipment that is put into the water).
- Once a Motorized watercraft has been inspected it may be launched into Flathead Lake and Flathead River below the dam. Documentation of the inspection will be provided to the owner to verify that their watercraft has been inspected.
- Once a local watercraft has been inspected, it will not have to have another inspection this season unless used on another waterbody. Local watercraft will be defined as watercraft that does not leave the reservation. The owner of the watercraft will be asked to sign an affidavit to indicate their compliance with this action.
- All non-local watercraft will need to get an inspection prior to launching into Flathead Lake and/or Flathead River every time. Non-local watercraft will be defined as watercraft that does leave the reservation.
- Boaters are required to stop at all inspection stations. .
- Locals and visitors frequenting Reservation waters are encouraged to Clean, Drain, Dry all equipment, anchors, ropes, waders and even pets that enter waters of the Reservation.
It’s up to us to keep the Clark Fork Watershed invader free!