In a bid to stop the spread of invasive mussels as part of the Aquatic Invasive Species (AIS) Action Plan, the Glacier National Park has issued an interim boating closure within all park waters.
The Action Plan was inked in 2014 and it is this plan that calls for immediate closure of park waters when invasive mussels are detected within a waterway in the State of Montana. Under the plan, the park will also initiate an assessment period to conduct testing, inspect park boats, and evaluate the risk boats pose to park waters and waters downstream from the unintended introduction of invasive mussels.
According to the park official, under the assessment they will be evaluating further tests of waters across the State of Montana during the summer of 2017. The closure will remain in place during the assessment period, which will extend until the nature of the threat is better understood.
Under the plan, park scientists will be working with the State of Montana and other water quality experts to understand the scope of threat posed by invasive mussels and after that identify steps that can be taken by the park to further protect waters in the Crown of the Continent.
Glacier National Park sits at the top of three continental scale watersheds. Water from the park drains into the Columbia, Missouri, and South Saskatchewan Basins. Protecting park waters from an infestation is important not only for the park’s ecosystem, but also to economic and ecological interests downstream.
Beginning in 2011, the park initiated a mandatory boat inspection and launch permit program to reduce the risk of infestation of park waters by invasive mussels. Since that time, approximately 1,000 motorized boat permits were issued annually. The park also required self-inspection and AIS-free certification of non-motorized watercraft. These boats come from many states across the country, including those with established populations of invasive mussels. In 2016, launch permits were issued to boats registered in 13 mussel positive states following inspection.