According to Montana Fish, Wildlife and Parks, the first watercraft inspection stations of 2019 will open this month. FWP Regional Information and Education Program Manager Dillon Tabish says inspection stations are important because they are the first line of defense to prevent the spread and movement of aquatic invasive species.

“Across the country, aquatic invasive species, such as zebra mussels, have become a serious problem,” Tabish said. “They infest bodies of water and rapidly spread. They can create very damaging problems in these lakes. A couple years ago, we did detect some AIS mussels in north central Montana. We are trying to prevent them from moving anymore across the state or from coming in from outside the state.”

Tabish says these invasive species can create ecological and environmental problems, but they can also cause significant economic damage.

“Other lakes across the country that have been infested by them have seen hundreds of millions of dollars in damages,” Tabish said. “That creates damages for the dam and utility companies, irrigation, city water supply, and drinking water supply. A recent study that was conducted here in Montana estimated that the damages, if Montana had a wide spread population of these mussels, could go up to $235 million per year in economic losses.”

According to Tabish, FWP checked over 100,000 boats last year across the state.

“That is very significant,” Tabish said. “That shows the scope of this program and how effective I think it is. They also caught multiple boats that had suspected AIS on them. Those are multiple potential infestations that we just stopped thanks to those inspection stations.”

Tabish says boat owners should ensure their watercraft and trailers are clean, drained and dry before transport. Here are Montana’s inspection rules:

  • All watercraft coming into Montana from out of state must be inspected prior to launching.
  • All watercraft traveling west across the Continental Divide into the Columbia River Basin must be inspected prior to launching.
  • All watercraft launching anywhere within the Flathead Basin that were last launched on waters outside of the Flathead Basin must be inspected.
  • Anyone transporting watercraft must stop at all open watercraft inspection stations they encounter.