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Aquatic Invaders Meet New Resistance in Montana

October 13, 2011

MISSOULA, Mont. - The best defense is a good offense, and not just for football. It's also a strategy for dealing with aquatic invasive species, such as zebra mussels and Eurasian water-milfoil. And the battle to keep them away from Montana's Southern Crown of the Continent is well underway, thanks to funding from Congress.

Shane Hendrickson, a fisheries biologist with the Missoula and Seeley Lake USDA Forest Service ranger districts, says it's just about impossible to get rid of invasive species once they gain a foothold.

"The way to deal with this, is not to get into it. There is no silver bullet for the plethora of aquatic invasives out there. The whole intent is not to have any of this stuff ever get here."

He says zebra mussels and weeds hitch rides on boats and boat trailers. Money through the Collaborative Forest Landscape Restoration Program (CFLRP) helped pay for check stations at the Clearwater Junction, monitoring in the Seeley-Swan Lakes and educational materials for handouts and postings on boat docks.

Joann Wallenburn, volunteer education coordinator with the Clearwater Resource Council, has been rounding up volunteers to talk to homeowner associations and boaters about what happens when invasives move in. They explain that beaches become littered with sharp zebra mussel shells, and boating and swimming become impossible because of water weeds.

"We've done a lot in a short time with the little bit of money that we've had to date. The CFLRP money is going to grow the program hugely."

She says the funding also helps pay for monitoring and testing.

Hendrickson expects boat check-stations to have expanded hours next season. And yes, all boats need to be checked for weeds and zebra mussels - even if they have been checked in another state, he says.

"They've picked up live adults in boat holds coming from Lake Mead, or somewhere out of state, that had made it through previous check stations. These are animals and they move around on the boat."

Details about CFLRP are available at http://ht.ly/6Vm8l.

Deb Courson Smith, Public News Service - MT