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By Joann Wallenburn
Clearwater Resource Council 

Missing Puzzle Piece


As the state of Montana gears up for the influx of boats and watercraft that might carry invasive mussels, Montana Fish, Wildlife & Parks (FWP) is working quickly to update measures that help prevent the spread of these species. FWP has proposed new rules that require inspection of all boats leaving Tiber and Canyon Ferry and decontamination at the discretion of the inspector, inspection of all boats entering the state and inspection of all boats crossing the divide into the western special management area.

The open comment period for the proposed rules regarding boat inspections and decontaminations closed last week. Overall, the comments received have been supportive. The target deadline for submitting the new rules and getting them officially adopted is April 15.

These rules go much further toward protecting our lakes than previous rules. But do they do enough? Many of my colleagues and I don’t think so. We recognize there are many limitations on the state which prohibit the state from doing more at this time. Those limitations are mostly time and money.

The buzz phrase right now is “Inspect Before Launch.” The new rules provide ‘Inspect Before Launch’ for all boats coming into the state from other states. The new rules also provide ‘Inspect Before Launch’ for all boats inside Montana that are coming over the divide from east to west, i.e. where the mussel-fouled waters are to where they aren’t. Big blanket rules are easy to craft. The piece of the puzzle that is missing is ‘Inspect Before Launch’ at the local level. Drawing up rules that handle all of the different variables at all the local levels across the state would be daunting. ‘Inspect Before Launch’ for Flathead Lake will likely look very different than ‘Inspect Before Launch” for Seeley Lake.

The Clearwater Resource Council (CRC) is leading a local effort to define what ‘Inspect Before Launch’ will look like for the lakes in our region. We are reaching out to local stakeholders to form a workgroup, a task force so to speak, to closely examine all the issues and hurdles to implementing ‘Inspect Before Launch’ for our local lakes.

Time and money? Both will be needed for planning and implementation. I want to stress that while we are delighted with the state funding announced last week, it doesn’t provide a penny for ‘Inspect Before Launch’ at the local level. However, I believe we have both time and money resources in this community to take this extra effort to protect our most precious natural resources.

Big Blackfoot Chapter of Trout Unlimited has kicked off the fundraising with a generous donation. If you would like to contribute your time and/or donate to this effort, please contact me. Thank you. Email: Phone: (406) 210-8453 Mail: PO Box 1471 Seeley Lake, MT 59868-1471.


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