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Agencies, watershed groups and tribal reps take aim at mussel protections in Missouri Basin


LEWISTOWN, Mont. – Armed with a grant from the National Invasive Species Council, a broad coalition of Montana agencies, watershed groups and Tribal representatives convened a workshop Jan. 29, 2018, in Lewistown to map out plans for improving the state’s ability to prevent and manage invasive mussels in the Missouri River Basin.

“While a good deal of the AIS prevention efforts to date have been focused west of the Continental Divide, we’re obviously just as concerned about introductions to the east,” said Steve Wanderaas, Supervisor at the McCone County Conservation District and vice chair of the Montana Invasive Species Council. “This is a dynamic group of partners committed to ensuring an introduction doesn’t happen on our watch.”

The workshop was sponsored by the Montana Invasive Species Council and is part of a larger pilot project in the Missouri Basin to learn from the 2016 detections of mussel larvae in Tiber and Canyon Ferry reservoirs.

“The goals include improving coordination between the state and its partners, developing a strategic plan, assessing the economic impacts of a mussel infestation, and augmenting the state’s Early Detection and Rapid Response Guidelines with measures specific to the Missouri Basin,” said Wanderaas.

The pilot project, to be led by the Montana Invasive Species Council, includes a wide range of partners: Montana Fish, Wildlife and Parks, the Missouri River Conservation Districts Council, Musselshell Water Coalition, the Milk River Watershed Alliance, the Cascade Conservation District, the Blackfeet Nation, the Lower Musselshell Conservation District, Petroleum County Conservation District, the Bighorn River Alliance, Big Sky Watershed Corps members, and federal agencies in the basin. 

In response to mussel detections in two eastern reservoirs last year, the Central and Eastern Montana Mussel Response Team was formed to assess the risk of invasive mussels to eastern waterways, and to provide recommendations to the state on better protecting the basin. The Missouri River pilot project will build on these efforts to strengthen protections and enhance collaboration between partners.

“The Missouri River Basin is a major economic driver in the state of Montana, including hydropower, irrigation and providing countless recreational opportunities for residents and visitors,” said Missouri River Conservation Districts Council Coordinator Rachel Frost. “An infestation has the potential to threaten our waters, communities, and very way of life – we are here to do everything we can to protect our freshwater resources for present and future generations.”

For more information on the Montana Invasive Species Council, visit:  http://dnrc.mt.gov/divisions/cardd/montana-invasive-species-program/misc. To see the Central and Eastern Montana Mussel Response Team recommendations, see: http://missouririvercouncil.info/wp-content/uploads/2017/03/CEMTMusselResponseReporttoFWP.pdf.