Montana Fish, Wildlife & Parks hosted a meeting of the watercraft inspection station partners in Helena.
Montana had more than 35 watercraft inspection stations spread across the state, open from April to October. FWP worked with six partner agencies and organizations to operate and staff these stations. More than 96,000 boats have been inspected so far this year, eclipsing the number of boats inspected in 2017 by 10,000.
The partners met over two days to discuss how the season went and to make plans for 2019. The partners made suggestions on improving inspection protocols and training inspectors to ensure consistency state-wide. FWP plans to improve signage at the stations and at boat ramps.
“Getting everyone together and sharing ideas is so valuable to the AIS program,” said Tom Woolf, AIS bureau chief for FWP. “The program works better when we share a common goal and work toward that end.”
In addition to FWP, watercraft inspection stations are operated by the National Park Service, Blackfeet Tribe, Confederated Salish and Kootenai Tribes, Whitefish Lake Institute, Missoula County Weed District, and the Garfield County Conservation District.
Garfield County Conservation District, the newest partner, opened the Flowing Wells station south of Fort Peck Reservoir at the junction of Highways 200 and 24. District Administrator Dusty Olsen, who supervised the station, was pleased with the results.
“I thought our season went well” Olsen said. “Three of my four inspectors plan to come back next year.”
The Flowing Wells station was open four days a week but plans to be open seven days a week in 2019.
Susan Mills, natural resource management specialist for Yellowstone National Park, attended the meeting to ensure that the park’s three inspection stations are compatible with Montana’s AIS program.
“This is a regional issue” Mills said. “People are the problem, and people are the solution to dealing with invasive species.”
Aquatic invaders in Yellowstone National Park include New Zealand mudsnails, whirling disease and non-native lake trout.
Yellowstone National Park operates two inspection stations on Yellowstone Lake and one at the south entrance near Jackson, Wyoming. Because motorboats are required to obtain a permit before launching, all motorboats used in the park were inspected.
For more information about Montana’s AIS program, visit CleanDrainDryMT.com or contact the FWP fisheries office at 406-444-2440.