Yellowstone seeks to stiffen invasive species rules, ban some boats

To defend against troublesome mussels, large motor boats and sailboats would have to be dried for 30 days before being launched.

To protect the headwaters of three major Western rivers from invasive, troublesome mussels, Yellowstone National Park wants to require larger boats to undergo a 30-day “dry time” before launching.

New rules up for comment also would ban any boat that’s once been contaminated by invasive Dreissena zebra or quagga mussels, regardless of decontamination cleaning.

The proposal builds on existing rules, including inspection of all watercraft, designed to protect Yellowstone and downstream waters from the fingernail-sized freshwater bivalves that cling to hard structures like boat hulls, docks and irrigation headgates. The proposal would help protect the ecological integrity of Yellowstone Park and the Yellowstone, Missouri and Snake rivers downstream in Idaho, Montana and Wyoming.

Under the proposed rules, boats with inboard, inboard/outboard and inboard jet motors — as well as sailboats — would have to be dried under a certified program for 30 days before launch. “Large, complex, trailered watercraft pose the highest risk of transporting and introducing invasive mussels … because they are difficult to inspect and less likely to … be fully decontaminated,” the park said in a release.

Manual cleaning is not 100% effective, the park said.

Mussels were recently discovered in waters within a day’s drive of Yellowstone, including the first found in the Columbia/Snake drainage last year near Twin Falls, Idaho. The year before, mussels showed up in Pactola Reservoir, South Dakota, not far from Wyoming’s eastern state line.

People can comment online through April 5 or to Yellowstone Center for Resources, Attn: AIS Proposed Changes, PO Box 168, Yellowstone National Park, WY 82190.


Spreading threat

The zebra mussel is native to the Black, Caspian, and Azov Seas and the quagga also comes from that area of Europe. They have infected the Midwest and lower Colorado River drainage.

They could threaten Yellowstone cutthroat trout, a species the park has spent more than two decades restoring. The mussels can also be destructive to water and power infrastructure, according to the U.S. Department of Interior. There are no known ways to eradicate the mussels. Any invasion would be expensive to mitigate.

Motor- and sailboats falling under the new rule would be inspected and sealed to a trailer for the 30-day dry period. Seals from Yellowstone National Park, Idaho State Department of Agriculture, Montana Fish, Wildlife, and Parks and Wyoming Game & Fish Department would be honored.

Once-infected boats would be banned because of the possibility they could, even if cleaned, cause a false detection during routine DNA monitoring and consequently waste resources.


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