Bill signed to fight invasive speciesSource: Great Falls Tribune
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From Staff Reports
HELENA – Gov. Steve Bullock signed Senate Bill 363 into law Thursday to provide funding to prevent and control aquatic invasive species and to start the Aquatic Invasive Species Prevention Pass, officials said.
SB 363, sponsored by Sen. Chas Vincent, R-Libby, passed the Legislature with bipartisan support and will provide Montana Fish, Wildlife, and Parks with $6 million per year to increase the number of inspection and decontamination stations and to expand public education and outreach efforts, officials said.
Funding will be supported through the Aquatic Invasive Species Prevention Pass purchased by anglers and a new electrical energy fee on hydroelectric facilities in Montana.
“Montana’s outdoor recreation economy depends on the health of our clean air and clean water – especially our rivers, streams, and lakes,” Bullock said. “This bipartisan legislation is critical to our continued success in the prevention and management of the threats posed by aquatic invasive species to our outdoor way of life.”
An amendment that called for a $25 fee to be paid by out-of-state bicyclists was dropped from the bill. In November, Bullock issued an executive order Wednesday declaring a statewide natural resource emergency for Montana water bodies due to the detection of the larvae of invasive aquatic mussels at Tiber Reservoir and suspected detections at Canyon Ferry Reservoir and the Milk and Missouri rivers. Bullock also signed an Executive Order to establish an interagency rapid response team to immediately respond to the emergency, emphasizing that “every effort must be taken to prevent the additional spread of this threat.”
SB 363 comes at the recommendation of the interagency rapid response team. Montana is a headwater state for three regionally significant river systems and the economic, environmental and recreational impacts of an invasive aquatic mussel infestation has national implications, the governor’s office said. In other parts of the country, such as the Midwest, mussel populations have impaired hydroelectric, municipal and agricultural water infrastructure and also impacted fisheries by turning lakes sterile.
Adult zebra and quagga mussels, which can grow to an inch and a half in size, are known for clogging pipes and other structures, interrupting the flow of water used for hydroelectric power, municipal use and agriculture.
Both mussel species are filter feeders and consume large portions of microscopic plants that small fish eat, which, in turn, can affect larger fish such as walleye and trout.