Glacier National Park continues its boat inspection and permit program this summer as part of an ongoing effort to prevent introduction of new aquatic invasive species (AIS) in park waterways. Quagga and zebra mussels, along with other aquatic invasive species, are primarily transported on recreational watercraft and pose a threat to delicate ecosystems, recreational opportunities, and local economies.
Motorboats and sailboats must have a thorough boat inspection conducted at a park boat inspection station upon every entry to the park. A free permit is issued after the inspection, which may take up to 30 minutes, depending on the complexity of the boat and number of boats needing inspection at one time. A boat may launch multiple times under a single permit provided the boat does not leave the park between launches. A new inspection and permit is required each time a boat, motorized or non-motorized, enters the park.
To receive a permit, boats must be clean, drained and thoroughly dry (including bilge areas and livewells) upon inspection. All boaters are encouraged to thoroughly clean, drain, and dry their watercraft and/or fishing equipment before coming to the park. Fishing equipment must be clean and dry as well. Dirty boats and boats that arrive with any standing water in the boat (including livewell and bilge areas) will not be issued a permit. Boats with inaccessible internal ballast tanks that can't be inspected are not allowed on park waters.
Launch hours are not restricted, however inspection hours are limited. Hours vary throughout the park and will be adjusted seasonally. Between now and Labor Day, permits are available from 7:00 a.m. to 7:00 p.m. at park headquarters in West Glacier, and 8:00 a.m. to 4:30 p.m. at all other locations, including the St. Mary Visitor Center, Two Medicine Ranger Station, and Many Glacier Ranger Station. Boaters wishing to launch on Bowman Lake should obtain a permit at park headquarters, then proceed immediately to Bowman Lake after the inspection.
Boats failing inspection will be denied a permit. Boaters may re-apply for a permit after their boat is thoroughly cleaned, drained and dried, or other issues of concern are adequately addressed. Boats found with infestations of any aquatic invasive species may be quarantined until they are fully decontaminated, which may take up to 30 days.
Invasive mussels have been found on boats within Montana and passing through the state in recent years. However, no invasive mussels have been detected in Montana waterways to date. Eurasian watermilfoil and other invasive aquatic plants are present in western Montana waterways, necessitating a high degree of vigilance to prevent spread. Federal law prohibits the transportation and introduction of invasive species throughout the United States, including into Glacier National Park. Park managers are currently in the process of developing an aquatic invasive species emergency response plan. If invasive mussels are detected in western Montana, emergency actions may include closing park waterways to boat use.
Park managers appreciate the cooperation of recreational boaters to help prevent aquatic invasive species from entering Glacier National Park. The consequences of aquatic invasive species becoming established in park waters which are the headwaters for the Columbia, Missouri and Hudson Bay Watersheds are dire for aquatic ecosystems, recreational opportunities, and economic concerns downstream. Park officials urge all boaters to clean, drain, and dry their boats and related equipment after every outing.
For more information on boating in Glacier National Park and the prevention of aquatic invasive species, please visit the park's website.
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