Late last year, Montana DNRC managed to kill funding for the Flathead Basin Commission. The FBC had been getting a little too pushy, especially in regards to Aquatic Invasive Species (AIS) prevention efforts. Well, it appears those annoying folks popped right back up as an independent organization named Watershed Protection Advocates . . .
A new player has emerged in the fight for the protection of the region’s waters, and next month the Watershed Protection Advocates of Northwest Montana will begin filling out its own “report card” on other agencies in the region.
The new advocacy group was formed by a number of former Flathead Basin Commission board members after the Flathead Basin Protection Fund pulled its financial support of the commission.
Watershed Protection Advocates is chaired by former Flathead Basin Commission chairperson Jan Metzmaker, and former Flathead Basin Commission Executive Director Caryn Miske is the sole contractor for the new advocacy group. Miske was terminated form her position on the commission in February following a series of allegations of misconduct made by Department of Natural Resources and Conservation officials.
The feds allocated $1.8 million to help Montana deal with invasive mussels this year . . .
The omnibus spending bill that Congress passed last week includes funding for Montana’s fight against aquatic invasive species.
Within the $1.3 trillion bill, $5 million is appropriated for watercraft inspections and mussel monitoring in Montana, Idaho, Washington and Oregon. An additional $1 million will go to controlling the spread of flowering rush, an invasive water plant.
Montana will receive about $1.8 million of these funds, said Kate Wilson, invasive species outreach coordinator for the Montana Department of Natural Resources and Conservation.
Invasive mussel DNA is still being found in Tiber Reservoir, but no larvae or adults so far . . .
Samples taken last year from Tiber Reservoir bolstered older evidence for the presence of invasive mussels.
In a press release Thursday, Montana Fish, Wildlife and Parks announced that samples of environmental DNA (eDNA) taken by it and the U.S. Geological Survey during 2017 indicated invasive mussels’ presence in Tiber Reservoir.
In Fall 2016, the discovery of quagga mussel larvae and a shell fragment there triggered a massive effort to detect and contain the animals. Over the course of 2017, the press release states, “FWP and partner agencies collected more than 1,500 plankton samples from 240 waterbodies,” including 128 plankton tow samples from Tiber and 147 at Canyon Ferry, where their presence is suspected.
Through these tests, “no adult mussels or larvae were found.”
One has to wonder if there’s a connection between the administrative uproar over a pilot program to combat invasive mussels in Flathead Lake and the defunding for supposed budgetary reasons of the organization tasked to oversee the program.
Anyway, here’s a good summary of the situation as it stands right now . . .
A legislatively mandated program aimed at enhancing protection from invasive mussels entering the Flathead Basin is beset with challenges as the group charged with implementing the plan has had its budget dissolved, while two state agencies say its key provisions cannot legally be implemented.
As part of House Bill 622, a bill introduced by four Flathead lawmakers, the Legislature gave the Flathead Basin Commission authority to establish and manage the Upper Columbia aquatic invasive species (AIS) pilot program. The program would add more certification stations in the Flathead Basin, track vessels that require decontamination, and add the use of automated inspection and detection devices.
The pilot program would have been paid for by requiring boat owners launching boats in the basin to purchase a sticker, which was expected to raise between $1 million and $1.5 million and pay for additional inspection stations.
Thompson Smith, former chair and a three-term governor appointed citizen member of the Flathead Basin Commission, has an excellent op-ed posted to the Flathead Beacon this week concerning the potential de-funding of the Flathead Basin Commission . . .
Montana’s crown jewel is in imminent danger from a plan to marginalize the Flathead Basin Commission (FBC) and force out its excellent Executive Director Caryn Miske.
John Tubbs, director of the Department of Natural Resources and Conservation (DNRC), recently proposed zeroing out the entire staff budget of the FBC. The official reason is that the budget impasse between Democrats and Republicans is now forcing agencies to cut 10 percent. That doesn’t pass the smell test. Within the DNRC, only the FBC is being targeted for a cut exceeding 70 percent – even though it constitutes just two-tenths of one percent of the department’s total budget. In fact, the proposed cut would actually result in Montana losing funding, because every year the FBC’s Miske has raised well over a half-million dollars in grant funds to bolster protection of the Flathead from the menace of aquatic invasive species (AIS).
Mussel-sniffing dogs from Alberta combed the shores of Tiber and Canyon Ferry Reservoirs during the past week, but found no evidence of invasive mussels. Montana Fish Wildlife and Parks (FWP) requested the assistance of the dog team in an attempt to identify adult zebra or quagga mussels following larval mussel detections last fall. This was part of a larger effort by FWP and other partners to survey for invasive mussels state-wide. Intensive plankton sampling, diver survey and snorkeling surveys have found no larval or adult zebra or quagga mussels this season in Montana waters.
Intensified survey and watercraft inspection this season was in response to larval mussel detections in Tiber Reservoir and a suspect detection in Canyon Ferry Reservoir last fall. This year FWP inspected more than 74,000 watercraft, with 17 intercepted transporting invasive mussels. Most of the boats intercepted with mussels were coming from the Great Lakes and were headed for Montana or other western states and provinces. The six Montana-bound mussel infested boats were decontaminated. The watercraft not bound for Montana were washed at the inspection station and the destination state was notified to allow for follow up and decontamination. Continue reading Mussel-sniffing dogs find no mussels→
This is an informative article about the issues surrounding invasive mussels in the Flathead Basin. Many of these problems are administrative, but the biggest one is not: DNRC Director John Tubbs wants to grab the money allocated to the Flathead Basin Commission and use it elsewhere . . .
A legislatively mandated pilot program designed to enhance protection from invasive mussels in the Flathead Basin is facing challenges on two fronts.
As part of HB 622, the Legislature gave the Flathead Basin Commission authority to establish and manage the Upper Columbia pilot program. The program would add more certification stations, track vessels that require decontamination, and add the use of automated inspection and detection devices.
The commission also could petition the state’s Fish and Wildlife Commission to adopt rules for the Flathead Basin that would require inspection of all vessels before they launch; prohibit or restrict some vessels, including waterborne airplanes and aquatic weed harvesters; and close waters where invasive mussels have been detected until a containment strategy was implemented.
The Daily Inter Lake has an interesting article on a device invented to provide fast, sensitive and mobile detection of invasive mussels . . .
The pristine waters of Flathead Lake that have supported local residents’ way of life for centuries are being threatened by invasive species that have devastated lakes and waterways across the country.
The arrival of the first documented zebra and quagga mussels in Montana could mark the beginning of the end for the crown of the continent’s signature landscape, according to experts at the Flathead Lake Biological Station (FLBS).
These invasive species have infested lakes in almost every state in the U.S., corrupting indigenous ecosystems, clogging drainage and irrigation systems and crashing the economical and recreational value of beaches and harbors.
Glacier Park has decided to allow small, hand-propelled watercraft on their lakes this season, as long as they are inspected for invasive mussels. Anything with a motor or big enough to require a trailer, is prohibited while the park further evaluates the danger posed by invasive mussel species.
Possibly in response to some points raised at last month’s Interlocal Meeting, “local users who live in more remote locations” (i.e., North Forkers) can get their equipment inspected at the “nearest ranger station.”
Here is the full press release, including a useful Q&A section. It’s followed by a link to a good summary article in the Hungry Horse News . . .
Date: March 16, 2017
Contact: Office of the Superintendent, 406-888-7901
WEST GLACIER, MT. – Glacier National Park announced today that hand-propelled, non-trailered watercraft including kayaks, canoes, and paddleboards will be permitted in the park with mandatory inspection beginning May 15 for Lake McDonald and the North Fork and June 1, 2017 for all remaining areas of the park. Last November, park waters were closed to all boating as a precaution after invasive species of non-native mussels were detected in two popular Montana reservoirs east of the park.
Hand-powered boat users will be required to have their craft certified mussel-free (“clean, drained, and dry”) by Glacier staff under a new inspection program with stations in four popular locations in the park. (Local users who live in more remote locations will be directed to the nearest ranger station for inspection.) This is a change from last season, when hand-propelled watercraft required visitors to complete an AIS-free self-certification form before launching into Glacier’s lakes.
Privately owned motorized and trailered watercraft brought into the park will not be allowed to operate on Glacier’s waters this summer while a comprehensive assessment of the threat from mussels is underway. Among other measures, this will include comprehensive testing of waters in the park and elsewhere in Montana for the presence of quagga and zebra mussels. These non-native mollusks reproduce quickly and can wreak havoc with lake environments, water quality, native wildlife, lake infrastructure, and cause significant economic harm to infested regions.