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Forest Service addresses AIS threat to Yellowstone

The Greater Yellowstone (GYA) Aquatic Invasive Species (AIS) Cooperative recently met at the Caribou-Targhee National Forest office in Idaho Falls Wednesday. They discussed prevention efforts to control infestations of AIS in Greater Yellowstone waters within Idaho, Wyoming and Montana.

The subcommittee has worked for years to implement prevention projects, such as boot cleaning stations and motorized watercraft inspections sites.

“We are funding a project to look at the regional water motor-boat inspection programs in each state and find out if there are any gaps in that program in preventing aquatic invasives from coming into the area,” said Fisheries Biologist Clint Sestrich.

Sestrich said the biggest AIS threat are zebra mussels. They were originally native to the lakes of southern Russia, but have made their way into the United States. They commonly attach to the bottom of boats and fisherman boots, making their way from the Great Lakes to western waters such as Lake Mead and Lake Powell.

“These things can attach to almost anything in the water, rather it be boats, water pipes or hydro power facilities,” said Sestrich. “It becomes very costly to get rid of those because they actually clog the pipes.”

According to the Columbia Basin fish and wildlife news bulletin, there have been reports of zebra mussel invasions in the Upper Snake River which could be costly.

“It would cost hundreds of millions of dollars annually if they became established and thrive,” economist Noelwah Netusil told the Northwest Power and Conservation Council in describing a worst-case scenario outlined in the report.

Experts say if AIS gets into higher elevations, like Yellowstone National Park, it’s possible that infestations could passively flow downstream. This could affect municipal waters and even irrigators.

The Greater Yellowstone Coordinating Committee said they believe preventative projects have been effective.

“It’s really difficult to gauge how effective these programs are. Thus far, we do not have these zebra mussels within the greater Yellowstone area and that’s a big part of these boat inspection stations,” said Sestrich.

For more information on prevention measures you can go the GYCC website at

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