In December 2016, aquatic invasive mussels (AIS) were discovered just a few hours away from Glacier National Park in Tiber and Canyon Ferry Reservoirs. The park’s initial response was a complete closure of park waters to all watercraft.
After assessing the threat of mussel transport in such close proximity to Glacier, the park reconfigured its AIS prevention program for the summer of 2017. The new program maintains closure of park waters to all motorized or trailered watercraft, and provide a full inspection by park staff of all non-motorized watercraft prior to launching in Glacier. That program will continue to operate in 2018 with inspection stations in Apgar, Two Medicine, St. Mary and Many Glacier.
Aquatic invasive mussels pose a massive threat both economically and ecologically throughout the United States, and continue to spread. With Glacier National Park sitting at the top of three continental scale watersheds, infestation of Glacier’s waters would almost certainly mean infestation of the Columbia River and all power-generating facilities along the river, as well as infestation of the Hudson Bay drainage and further infestation of the Missouri River drainage.
Through complete closure of Glacier’s waters we might prevent infestations from happening; however, the National Park Service has a dual mandate to preserve and protect resources while also providing enjoyment of those resources. The Glacier National Park AIS prevention program provides both excellent resource protection and visitor access to enjoy park waters. The current program provides high confidence in our inspection program and access to park waters.
The goal of this project is to provide for visitor boating on park waters while ensuring they remain protected from AIS introduction. To this end, all non-motorized watercraft wanting to launch on park waters will be inspected for aquatic invaders, including plants and mollusks. Park staff estimate 10,000 or more non-motorized watercraft will be inspected parkwide during the summer of 2017. AIS monitoring will take place on all vehicle accessible lakes each month of the summer.