WEST GLACIER, MT. – Glacier National Park is implementing a third phase in its aquatic invasive species emergency response, following the detection of invasive mussels in the State of Montana within 100 miles of the park’s eastern border last fall.
The first phase of the response was to immediately close all park waters to all hand-propelled and motorized boat use when exotic mussels were detected in the State of Montana. The second phase was to open park waters to hand-propelled boat use following a new, rigorous, hand propelled boat inspection process. In addition, the second phase included early season water sampling using eDNA technology, and allowed concession rented and operated motorized tour boats to launch on park lakes.
In the next month, the park will begin allowing approved motorized boat use on Lake McDonald in Glacier National Park by privately owned motorboats as part of a third phase in its response.
The third phase will allow motorboats onto Lake McDonald following an initial inspection and subsequent thirty-day quarantine. “Quarantining a cleaned, drained, and dry boat for thirty days ensures that all invasive mussels and mussel larvae that may be missed during an inspection or decontamination process are dead,” said Glacier National Park Superintendent Jeff Mow. “Our objective is to provide an appropriate level of user access to the extent that we can, and ensure that those motorboats do not pose a risk to park waters.”
As an initial part of this third phase, the park has begun allowing private landowners living within the park boundary around Lake McDonald whose motorboats are only launched on Lake McDonald to begin accessing the lake. These boats have exceeded the thirty day quarantine requirement, and in addition, have undergone an aquatic invasive species boat inspection by NPS staff.
In the next two weeks, the park will release quarantine and inspection procedures for people living outside the park who would like to launch their boat on Lake McDonald.
“During this third phase of response, we expect that most of the visiting public will continue to rely on concession rented motorboats for motorized lake access,” said Mow. “However, for those local residents who primarily boat on Lake McDonald, this broadens that opportunity to use a private motorboat.”
The park has been reviewing a number of best practices from other areas, and will use a tagging program similar to the one used at Whitefish Lake. A seal between a boat and its trailer will be affixed. The boat owner will then be able to return to the lake in thirty days and launch their boat after the seal is removed by an NPS inspection employee, provided the seal is not broken between their boat and trailer. If they want to launch on Lake McDonald again, they can have another seal placed on their boat and trailer upon exiting the lake, and need not wait another thirty days to launch, as long as the affixed seal is intact.
The park will issue another press release and update its boating website when the quarantine program is operational and people can bring their boats to the park for inspection and to have a seal affixed on the boat.