This summer, Missoula County Weed District staff worked with many watershed partners and the Missoula County Commission to create Montana’s first and only county-wide Aquatic Invasive Species (AIS) District. The purpose of the AIS District is two-fold: 1) to assist in coordinating efforts to prevent, survey, monitor and manage aquatic invasive species in Missoula County and 2) educate the people living and recreating in Missoula County on the identification and impacts of aquatic invasive species to our economy and environment. We are excited by the opportunity to take this first step in growing into a more comprehensive invasive species program as well as providing a model for other counties to follow in Montana that are concerned about the negative impact aquatic invasive species pose to their communities.
Missoula County has been significantly involved in the state’s AIS program for quite some time. In 2016 we began partnering with the Clearwater Resource Council and the Department of Natural Resources and Conservation to assist with AIS monitoring in the Clearwater, Swan and Blackfoot watersheds.
In 2017, we took on an even larger role by partnering with Fish, Wildlife and Parks to staff and manage the Clearwater Watercraft Inspection Station. This is one of the busiest stations in the state, inspecting over 35,000 watercraft during the 2020 season, or 26% of the total inspections conducted across the state at 34 stations. 2020 was also the start of a large project to survey, map and list fragrant water-lily as an invasive in Missoula County. Our work has also included the establishment of treatment trials and the beginning of innovative research into the origin and impact of this species on the ecology of the lakes and streams it has invaded.
Following on the model of promoting collaboration and partnerships adopted by the weed district, the new AIS district will lean heavily on continuing to build partnerships with the strong local, state and Tribal programs already work-ing in and around Missoula County. We are also excited to have members from many of those groups represented on the newly created board. The board will begin 2021 with the development of strategic and operation plans for the district, as well as a list of priority species of concern to focus our education efforts. If you are interested in getting involved with district meetings, or just learning more, you can visit: https://www.missoulacounty.us/community/boards-commissions.