Category Archives: Boating

Puddles gets jump on invasive mussels in WA waterways

WDFW Sergeant Pam Taylor and Puddles, a rescued 2-year-old Jack Russell terrier mix who will use her keen sense of smell to help detect quagga and zebra mussel larvae on boats traveling through mandatory watercraft-inspection stations run by the Washington Department of Fish and Wildlife (WDFW). WDFW courtesy photo.

OLYMPIA, Wash. (May 16, 2019) – The newest member of the team that protects Washington’s waterways from invasive species has quite the ruff routine: Sniff, sit, play!

Starting this spring, Puddles, a 2-year-old Jack Russell terrier mix, will use her keen sense of smell to help detect quagga and zebra mussel larvae on boats traveling through mandatory watercraft-inspection stations run by the Washington Department of Fish and Wildlife (WDFW).

Starting this spring, Puddles, a 2-year-old Jack Russell terrier mix, will use her keen sense of smell to help detect quagga and zebra mussel larvae on boats traveling through mandatory watercraft-inspection stations run by the Washington Department of Fish and Wildlife (WDFW). Courtesy photo provided by WDFW.
Starting this spring, Puddles, a 2-year-old Jack Russell terrier mix, will use her keen sense of smell to help detect quagga and zebra mussel larvae on boats traveling through mandatory watercraft-inspection stations run by the Washington Department of Fish and Wildlife (WDFW). Courtesy photo provided by WDFW.

“Invasive mussels can impact our state’s water quality, power and irrigation systems, wildlife and recreation,” Justin Bush, executive coordinator of the Washington Invasive Species Council, said. “We all need to work together to prevent invasive mussels from changing our way of life and harming resources we value. In many ways, invasive mussels would change what it means to be a Washingtonian.”

Quagga and zebra mussels can clog piping and mechanical systems of industrial plants, utilities, locks and dams. Researchers estimate that invasive species cost industries, businesses and communities more than $5 billion nationwide over 6 years, and the power industry more than $3 billion.

“We believe Puddles will be a great addition to the Washington invasive species program,” Heidi McMaster, regional invasive species coordinator for the U.S. Bureau of Reclamation, said. The bureau paid for Puddles’ training as part of the Bureau’s fight to keep the Columbia River basin and Washington State free of invasive mussels. “Reclamation is proud to be part of this effort to prevent the introduction of quagga mussels to the Columbia River basin.”

Puddles was initially surrendered to a shelter in Fresno, California where she caught the attention of the Green Dog Project’s “Rescued for a Reason” program. Staff at the Green Dog Project contacted Mussel Dogs, a training program for dogs, and Puddles was trained there.

WDFW Sergeant Pam Taylor spent 2 weeks in California and at Glen Canyon National Recreation Area in Arizona and Utah training with Puddles for her new assignment.

Puddles is just one of the ways Washington State is working with the U.S. Bureau of Reclamation and other partners – including the USDA Forest Service – to control and stop the spread of invasive species.

National Forest lands in the Pacific Northwest protect a number of watersheds that provide clean water for drinking and irrigation, as well as hydroelectric power generation and wildlife habitat – all uses that are threatened by invasive species, including quagga and zebra mussels.

WDFW Sergeant Pam Taylor and Puddles, a rescued 2-year-old Jack Russell terrier mix who will use her keen sense of smell to help detect quagga and zebra mussel larvae on boats traveling through mandatory watercraft-inspection stations run by the Washington Department of Fish and Wildlife (WDFW). WDFW courtesy photo.
WDFW Sergeant Pam Taylor and Puddles, a rescued 2-year-old Jack Russell terrier mix who will use her keen sense of smell to help detect quagga and zebra mussel larvae on boats traveling through mandatory watercraft-inspection stations run by the Washington Department of Fish and Wildlife. WDFW courtesy photo.

How you can help: Clean, Drain, Dry!

The Washington Invasive Species Council asks the public to Clean–Drain–Dry their boats, personal watercraft, and other gear each time they remove their craft or equipment from a body of water.

Some invesive species can hitch a ride on clothes, shoes and boots, boats, canoes, kayaks, paddleboards, and even fishing poles, pails, and shovels!

Clean: When leaving the water, clean all equipment that touched the water by removing all visible plants, algae, animals and mud. This includes watercraft hulls, trailers, shoes, waders, life vests, engines and other gear.

Drain: Drain any accumulated water from watercraft or gear, including live and transom wells, before leaving the access point to the water. If transporting watercraft, clean and dry everything before transport.

Dry: Once home, let all gear fully dry before using your boat or watercraft it in a different water body. Just draining and letting your watercraft and gear dry may not sufficiently remove some invasive species.

Transporting boats across state lines: Clean, Drain, Dry may not protect local waterways against all potential invasives. If you are bringing a watercraft into Washington for the first time, contact the Washington State aquatic invasive species hotline (1-888-WDFW-AIS) before placing it in the water. Be prepared to provide the state and water body where your watercraft was used, and whether you decontaminated your watercraft before you left that state. In some cases, WDFW will require an intensive decontamination upon entry into Washington, provided at no cost to the owner. Remember that it’s illegal to transport or spread aquatic invasive species and violators can face heavy fines, and even jail time!


Source information: The Washington Invasives Species Council and Washington Department of Fish & Wildlife (joint press release).

A walk on the wild side: Exploring the forest with your dog

A German Shepard poses against the view after a hike to a mountain ridge.

It’s a bright cool morning when a hiker arrives at the trailhead with great anticipation. The trail ahead is lined with huge trees towering over the cerulean sky. The only thing that could possibly make the experience better, for many recreation users, is to have their canine best friend along for the adventure.

Dogs are welcome in most areas throughout our National Forests, but there are some simple guidelines we ask dog owners to follow to ensure the safety and enjoyment of all who use these great public resources, including their furry friends.

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The underlying rule for people bringing their dogs into “developed recreation” sites — that means areas designated as trail heads, campgrounds, parking lots, interpretive trails, visitor centers, and so on — is that dogs need to be a leash six feet in length or shorter, or restrained in some other way, such as a crate or carrying case.

In most other forest areas— including areas of trails beyond the trailhead or outside a developed recreation area — there are typically no leash requirements.

That doesn’t mean owners are relieved of responsibility for their animal, or that an off-leash walk is recommended, or even safe for your dog.

“Know your dog, but also recognize that the changed environment can impact your dog in different ways. You can’t control the environment or the possible sensory stimulation your dog may experience on the trail,” Tanya Roberts, Manager of Training and Behavior at Oregon Humane Society, said. “It’s always best to keep your dog on a leash when you’re on an unfamiliar trail.”

Some campers aren’t dog lovers; they may have phobias or allergies that prevent them from being happy to meet an unrestrained pet.

“Learn as much about trails and campgrounds as you can before you bring your dog. Steep terrain, narrow trails, steel mesh bridges, and log climbs can make the hike very difficult for your dog,” Roberts said.

When hiking, uncontrolled dogs may wander off a path and encounter wildlife, with disastrous results for the animal or themselves.

Some dogs have little fear of heights; in areas with cliffs, gulches, canyons, caves, or big rocks, they may slip under railings or over a steep drop and get hurt — or worse.

Another way to protect your pet: Before heading outdoors, ensure all vaccinations are up-to-date and make sure you’re using flea and tick control. Make sure dogs are both wearing identification tags on their collar and are microchipped, in case they get lost. Bringing a recent photo is also good idea, so you can show it to others campers or a rangers if your dog does go missing.

In some forests, you may encounter areas that restrict access to domesticated animals outside of developed recreation sites. These restrictions may be in place to protect watershed health, municipal water systems, sensitive plant species, or other natural resources that could be damaged. For example, restrictions are in place on some parts of the Deschutes National Forest to protect the City of Bend’s municipal water supply.

“Bottom line, it comes down to being respectful to others, wildlife, and keeping your dog safe,” Logan Free, the USDA Forest Service – Pacific Northwest Region’s developed recreation program manager, said.

Free is an avid hiker and dog owner, and enjoys helping others enjoy the outdoors successfully with their dogs.

Yielding on trails is a common friction point among recreation users, he said.

“A basic etiquette rule I’ve heard is ‘Wheels yield to heels,’ where bikers and OHVers yield to all other users, while hikers yield to horseback riders,” Free said. “Restrain your dog when others try passing and yield to others, as you don’t know if other hikers would enjoy Fluffy jumping up to greet them.”

Keeping your leashed on trails is recommended, even if it’s not required, Roberts said.

Maintaining a safe distance between your dog and other trail users, including those on bikes or horseback, protects not only other users but also your pet.

“It’s just not worth the risk of having your dog off leash. It could become a life or death situation if your dog runs around a corner on a trail and startles a horse. This can be very dangerous both for your dog and for the horseback rider,” she said.

While some dog owners are confident allowing their dog to roam off-leash because their pet is trained to follow voice commands, even well-trained dogs can behave unpredictably — especially in an unfamiliar area, Roberts said.

“Some people are concerned that their dogs won’t get as much exercise if they stay on a leash, but usually with all the new sensory input, dogs will come home very tired anyway,” she said.

Another source of human-dog conflicts are areas around developed recreation sites. Even leashed, a dog’s presence can interfere with activities like bird watching. Barking is also a common source of friction between dog owners and other visitors.

“The National Forests are for everyone to enjoy. If people encounter dogs that are interfering with their ability to enjoy public lands, a polite conversation with the dog owner is a good first step, if the issue isn’t serious or threatening; followed by a call to your local ranger district office if the problems persist, and a call to law enforcement if the dog is aggressive,” Free said.

If you encounter other dog owners, remember that they also may prefer your dog be leashed around their pet, Roberts said.

“There may be lots of possible reasons. Maybe a dog is recovering from surgery, and having other dogs jump on them could do real damage,” Roberts said.

And sometimes, the best way to ensure your dog enjoys your time outdoors is to leave them at home.

Before taking your dog on a hike, take the weather, and the distance and terrain into account, Roberts said.

“Watch out for heat,” she said. “Put your hand down on the terrain: if it’s uncomfortable for you to put down pressure on the ground because of heat or sharp terrain, it will probably also be for your dog.”

If your dog is younger, older, or hasn’t hiked before, start with shorter hikes so dogs can get familiar with the environment, strengthen supporting muscles, and toughen up the pads on their feet.

“Get your dogs’ heart checked by a veterinarian before attempting any hiking. Carry a first aid kit, especially if you have a big dog who you won’t be able to carry back to your car. With elderly dogs, it’s especially important that you know what the dog will encounter along the trail and how difficult it will be,” Roberts said.

For pet safety tips, first-aid, and more information about responsible recreation with dogs on National Forests, check out the FAQ at https://www.fs.usda.gov/Internet/FSE_DOCUMENTS/stelprdb5351574.pdf.

Before your visit, contact the local Ranger district office for specific local considerations or recommendations.

And don’t forget to scoop your dog’s poop! “Leave no trace” should be your goal for pets (and people, too). Dog feces can take months to decompose, and may carry diseases and parasites that are dangerous to wildlife and contaminate water that humans rely on, as well.

“It’s lovely to see people being respectful and being aware of how their dogs may be impacting others around them,” Roberts said. “We need to encourage people to do things right.”


Source Information: Chris Bentley is the Website and Social Media Manager for the USDA Forest Service – Pacific Northwest Region’s Office of Communications and Community Engagement. He doesn’t have a dog… yet.

Wild & Scenic Rivers Act 50th Anniversary: Rafting rapids and tying flies on the North Umpqua River

Fly fishermen practice with a guide on the North Umpqua River

People seem to agree there is something special about the North Umpqua River.

The water is sometimes blue and sometimes green, and so clear you can see through to the smooth stones of the riverbed, below. The current, alternately placid and rapids, tumbles under bridges and over boulders as it winds through a modest canyon and across portions of the Umpqua National Forest.

Why it’s special it’s harder to pin down; or rather, the reasons are as varied as those who are drawn to its sun-dappled, tree-lined banks.

two kayakers paddle downriver

Outfitter-guides lead groups of white water rafting and kayaking enthusiasts down the north Umpqua River towards Horseshoe Bend campground and boat launch on the Umpqua National Forest (North Umpqua Ranger District) July 20, 2018. A 34-mile stretch of the river is designated for recreation under the federal Wild and Scenic River Act, which celebrates it’s 50th anniversary this year. 

For fishing guide Dillon Renton, the special nature of the North Umpqua River is deeply rooted in the river’s century-old ties to fly-fishing.

A 33-mile stretch of the river was federally designated as a Wild and Scenic River in 1988. The act, which passes the half-century mark later this year, identifies rivers to be managed and protected to preserve outstanding wild, scenic, or recreational values.

For the North Umpqua River, the list includes water quality, fisheries, recreational opportunities, cultural significance, and overall scenic value.

“It’s quite different from other rivers, in terms of ease of access. You can pull right off the highway and start fishing, in some places,” Janie Pardo, a Forest Service realty specialist on the North Umpqua Ranger District and manager of the river’s outfitter-guide program, said.

A fishing guide helps a woman practice casting from a sandbar along the North Umpqua River

Fishing guide Dillon Renton helps visitors Rob Lynn and Shelley Phillips practice their cast at a Bureau of Land Management day use area on the banks of the north Umpqua River July 19, 2018.

Fly fishing is what the north Umpqua is most famous for – specifically, the wild Columbian steelhead.

The river attracted fly-fishing sportsmen beginning in the 1920s. Anglers pursued wild Columbian steelhead from its banks; including some famous names like Zane Gray and Jack Hemingway.

Catching the fish is notoriously difficult. Some anglers even call it “the graduate school of fly-fishing,” Jim Woodward, who co-owns the Steamboat Inn with wife Melinda, said.

Fishing is what drew the Woodwards to invest in the half-century old fishing lodge on the banks of the river, about two years ago. The couple met while working together at another resort, but dreamed of running a lodge of their own.

The owner of Steamboat Inn discusses fishing flies

Jim Woodward, owner of Steamboat Inn, discusses the history of fly fishing for wild steelhead on the North Umpqua River July 20, 2018. The inn, built in 1957 has operated on the Umpqua National Forest (North Umpqua Ranger District) for more than 60 years, and is the successor to the North Umpqua Lodge, which operated from 1934-1952. Prior to that, the site was home to a fishing camp established by Maj. Jordan Mott in 1929, and also used by angler Zeke Allen.

“We walked in, and we were like, ‘this is it,’” Melinda Woodward said.

But like the fish that ply its waters, the river valley’s weather can also be fickle. Just months into the Woodward’s first season, a lightning storm set wildfires across surrounding portions of the north Umpqua National Forest.

a fishing fly with black and white skunk fur

A Green Butt Skunk fly lies on a table at the Steamboat Inn July 20, 2018. The fly pattern was specifically created for fishing wild steelhead on the North Umpqua River by Dan Callahan, a founder of the Steamboaters – a private flyfishing and conservation organization founded for the protection of the river and its fishing heritage.

Some fires burned right up to the river’s banks. Officials closed the highway, then the river, north of the lodge. And what visitors the lack of traffic and river didn’t kill, the smoke drove away.

“We called it our ‘trial by fire,’” Melinda Woodward said. “If we could get through that, we can make it through anything.”

A chef plates entres while a member of the waistaff assists in the kitchen

Justin Smith plates entrees in the kitchen at the Steamboat Inn July 20, 2018.

Justin Smith grew up in Glide, Ore. and is the first in four generations of his family not to work in logging.

In the 1980s, before the Endangered Species Act was passed, fishing was how his family filled their freezer during lumber mill strikes.

His first job was working in the kitchen of the Steamboat Inn, and cooking became his career. For several years, he worked Portland, specializing in farm-to-table cooking, before returning to the inn last year as its chef.

In late July, summer squashes and wild morels were featured alongside cocktails and desserts that were made with local berries.

The fishing library at Steamboat Inn

The fishing library at Steamboat Inn, pictured here on July 20, 2018. The inn’s ties to a century of fly fishing and wild steelhead runs on the North Umpqua river are apparent in the historical photos and fishing equipment on display, the decor, and the inn’s extensive library of books on fly fishing, many by authors known to have fished on the river.

Smith was mid-transition, from the last of the winter vegetables to summer fare – a phone call from one of his farmers to let him know she had fresh tomatoes and peaches meant he’d be pivoting to new menu items as soon as his order arrives.

“I’m going to have a ton of beets left over, but that’s OK,” he said. “I’ll pickle them, and then we can serve them this winter.”

Smith spoke of “his vendors” much the same way Renton spoke of favorite fishing holes – with a note of local pride, tempered with the slightly guarded tone of a secret not readily shared.

“I want the flavors to remind people of where we are, and what this place is,” he said. “That’s where the morels come from, the berries. As much as we can, it’s all local.”

A fly fisherman on the banks of the river

Rob Lynn practices his cast at a Bureau of Land Management day use area on the banks of the north Umpqua River July 19, 2018. Attempting to catch steelhead on the North Umpqua River is sometimes referred to as the “graduate school of fly fishing.”

One thing that isn’t on the menu is wild steelhead from the North Umpqua River. The fish is protected, and today all fishing for it is catch-and-release.

That doesn’t stop fly fishermen from coming from all over to test their skills against the famous fish. They don’t have the river to themselves, though. The anglers share the river with a growing community of boaters, primarily drawn to opportunities for whitewater rafting and kayaking.

The fishing guides, suited in waders and wielding flies and rods, are out from sunup to around 10 a.m., when the rafting parties begin to gather at places like the Boulder Flat boat launch. Many anglers return in late afternoon, and continue to fish until dusk.

rafters paddle downriver through rapids

Outfitter-guides lead groups of white water rafting and kayaking enthusiasts down the north Umpqua River towards Horseshoe Bend campground and boat launch on the Umpqua National Forest (North Umpqua Ranger District) July 20, 2018.

But in the middle of the day, it’s boaters who rule the river, paddling kayaks or swooping over rapids in rafts along much of the Wild and Scenic recreation corridor.

Portions of the river are managed by the Forest Service, and others by the Bureau of Land Management.

rafters listen to safety instructions

A group of rafters listen to a Sun River Tours outfitter-guide give safety instructions at the Boulder Flat boat launch on the North Umpqua River, Umpqua National Forest in Oregon July 20, 2018. A 34-mile stretch of the river is designated for recreation under the federal Wild and Scenic River Act, which celebrates it’s 50th anniversary this year. USDA Forest Service photo by Catherine Caruso (Pacific Northwest Region, Office of Communications and Community Engagement staff)

Land managers describe the river corridor by dividing it in five sections, each roughly five or six miles in length.

Each segment is dominated by unique scenery, from basalt columns in the first segment, Boulder Flat to Horseshoe Bend), to old growth forest and water falls on the fourth, Boulder Creek to Susan Creek, and smooth running river interspersed with rapids that ranging from a relatively gentler Class IIs and IIIs to challenging Class IVs and Vs.

From overhead, rafters paddle downriver

Outfitter-guides lead groups of white water rafting and kayaking enthusiasts down the north Umpqua River towards Horseshoe Bend campground and boat launch on the Umpqua National Forest (North Umpqua Ranger District) July 20, 2018. 

Visitors can raft or kayak on the river without a permit, or access the river through one of several companies with outfitter-guide permits (check out the USDA Forest Service – Pacific Northwest Region’s new outfitter-guide finder).

“As outfitter-guides, we’re really ambassadors for the river,” Erik Weiseth, owner of Orange Torpedo Trips, said.

A kayaker paddles through rapids

Outfitter-guides lead groups of white water rafting and kayaking enthusiasts down the north Umpqua River towards Horseshoe Bend campground and boat launch on the Umpqua National Forest (North Umpqua Ranger District) July 20, 2018. A 34-mile stretch of the river is designated for recreation under the federal Wild and Scenic River Act, which celebrates it’s 50th anniversary this year. USDA Forest Service photo by Catherine Caruso (Pacific Northwest Region, Office of Communications and Community Engagement staff)

Not everyone has the confidence or tools to take up a new outdoors activity on their own. Outfitter-guides provide the gear, and the expertise, to try something new — and do it safely, he said.

The company also operates tours on the Rogue River, one of eight rivers designated 50 years ago, when the Wild and Scenic Rivers Act first passed.

A wildflower

A wildflower grows on the banks of the north Umpqua River, through the Umpqua National Forest (North Umpqua Ranger District) at Horshoe Bend campground July 20, 2018.

The inherent tension between maintaining the natural wonder visitors value when visiting outdoor spaces, while introducing more people to those special places, is one that he, like others who work along the river, is sensitive to.

“But these places won’t survive, if people don’t know them and appreciate them,” Weiseth said. “As outfitters and guides, we provide an accessible way for people to do that.”

Recreation on the

From left, April Clayes, her son Gil Sidro, and sister Sierra Vandonk enjoy lunch at the Falls Creek Falls trailhead on the Umpqua National Forest (North Umpqua Ranger District) July 20, 2018. 

At the Falls Creek Falls trailhead, April Clayes, her son Gil Sidro, and sister Sierra Vandonk enjoyed a family picnic after a short hike to the falls.

“(Gil) first came here when he was a baby, and we come back every so often,” Clayes said. “It’s a nice hike, not too steep… it’s special to us. He has memories of his grandpa on this trail, with him.”

A mossy tree

Moss drapes from a tree on a river bank behind Steamboat Inn along the North Umpqua River on the Umpqua National Forest July 20, 2018.

Behind the Steamboat Inn, guests took in the sights and sounds of the river while dining on the restaurant’s patio as Melinda Woodward reflected on what drew her, and her husband, to the North Umpqua River.

What makes the river unique might not be something that can be shared, only experienced, Woodward said.

“There is something special about this river. I don’t know how to put it into words. One guest said ‘if there’s any magic left, it’s here,'” she said.

More information:

A river cuts through a steep canyon

The North Umpqua River’s rapids drop to class II as the river approaches Horseshoe Bend campground and boat launch on the Umpqua National Forest (North Umpqua Ranger District) July 20, 2018.


Source information: Catherine “Cat” Caruso is the strategic communication lead for the USDA Forest Service – Pacific Northwest Region’s Office of Communications and Community Engagement, and edits the “Your Northwest Forests” blog. You can reach her at ccaruso@fs.fed.us.

Forest Service waives fees June 2 & 9 for National Trails Day, Get Outdoors Day

A family is seated on a hilltop, overlooking the Columbia River and surrounding portions of the Columbia River Gorge.

PORTLAND, Ore. – May 31, 2018 – The USDA Forest Service will waive fees at day-use recreation sites in Oregon and Washington on Saturday, June 2 for National Trails Day and Saturday, June 9, in recognition of National Get Outdoors Day.

Celebrated annually on the first Saturday in June, National Trails Day is the country’s largest celebration of trails. National Trails Day events will take place in every state across the country and will include hikes, biking and horseback rides, paddling trips, birdwatching, geocaching, gear demonstrations, stewardship projects and more. National Trails Day is also an opportunity to give back by volunteering on trail projects. Visit the National Trails Day webpage or contact your nearest national forest to find volunteer opportunities near you.

National Get Outdoors Day encourages Americans, particularly youth, to seek healthy, active outdoor lives and embrace our parks, forests, refuges, and other public lands and waters.

“The Pacific Northwest is blessed with incredible natural beauty and world-class recreation opportunities,” said Regional Forester Jim Peña. “Whatever your interest or skill level, there’s something for everyone, so get outdoors and enjoy your public lands!”

The fee waivers include many picnic areas, boat launches, trailheads, and visitor centers. Concession operations will continue to charge fees unless the permit holder wishes to participate. Fees for camping, cabin rentals, heritage expeditions, or other permits still apply.

No fees are charged at any time on 98 percent of national forests and grasslands, including approximately two-thirds of developed recreation sites in national forests and grasslands.

The USDA Forest Service Pacific Northwest Region manages more than 24,000 miles of trails enjoyed by many different users. In 2017, Forest Service volunteers contributed more than 255,000 hours of service to trails work in national forests across Oregon and Washington. These volunteer contributions helped the Forest Service accomplish half of the Region’s trail accomplishments in 2017.

Each year, national forests in the Pacific Northwest receive over 15 million visitors, who spend approximately $738 million annually in communities near national forests. This spending supports approximately 6,080 year-long jobs, many in rural communities, and approximately $210 million in labor income for businesses and employees.

Mark your calendars for additional USDA Forest Service fee-free days this fall:

  • Sept. 22, 2018: National Public Lands Day
  • Nov. 11 – 12, 2018: Veterans Day Weekend

To find a hiking trail or recreation site near you, visit our interactive recreation map.

Boaters: ‘Clean, drain & dry’ to halt free rides for invasives

Two men row a canoe across a large lake, with forest and mountain ridges visible in the background. A woman is seated in the center of the canoe, between the rowers.

OLYMPIA, Wash. — March 29, 2018  — The Washington Invasive Species Council and Washington Department of Fish and Wildlife are reminding boaters to “CLEAN, DRAIN and DRY their boats and equipment to prevent the spread of invasive species and minimize the time spent at mandatory boat inspections at state borders.

“The best way to keep our lakes and rivers clean and free from invasive species is to clean, drain and dry your boats and equipment,” said Justin Bush, executive coordinator of the Washington State Invasive Species Council. “We only have one chance to keep Washington free of these invaders, which wreak havoc on our environment, stop recreation and destroy water-based industries. Once here, invasive species are really hard and expensive to remove. We all must be diligent in making sure we protect our waterways.”

Aquatic invasive species are non-native animals, plants, microorganisms and pathogens that out-compete or prey on Washington’s native fish and other wildlife. They can harm the environment, hinder salmon recovery efforts and damage human health and businesses. They come to Washington from other states and provinces on trailers, boat hulls, motors, wading boots, fishing equipment and in many other ways. Once they become established in one lake or river, they can easily spread to more waters in Washington.

To protect Washington State waters, follow these steps:

Clean: When leaving the water, clean all equipment that touched the water by removing all visible plants, algae, animals and mud. Equipment includes watercraft hulls, trailers, shoes, waders, life vests, engines and other gear.

Drain: Drain any accumulated water from boats or gear, including the bilge and live wells and transom wells, before leaving the water access point.

Dry: Once home, fully dry all gear before using it in a different waterbody.

“If you are bringing watercraft from another state and think that your boat and gear may carry invasive species, we urge you to contact the Department of Fish and Wildlife before traveling home,” said Allen Pleus, the Washington Department of Fish and Wildlife’s (WDFW) Aquatic Invasive Species Unit Lead. “Call the state’s aquatic invasive species hotline (1-888-WDFW-AIS) and let us know where you used the boat. If there is a high risk, we can inspect your boat and possibly decontaminate it at little or no cost.”

It’s also the law. It is illegal to transport or spread aquatic invasive species and violators can face a maximum penalty of 1 year in jail and $5,000 in fines.

Mandatory Boat Inspections

To combat the threat, WDFW is ramping up mandatory inspection stations at our borders and high risk water bodies to make sure that infested watercraft don’t slip into Washington.

“There is so much at stake,” said Capt. Eric Anderson of the WDFW Enforcement program. “Invasive species, like quagga and zebra mussels, threaten Washington’s dams, farm irrigation systems, drinking water supplies and our precious natural resources.”

In 2017, WDFW opened two mandatory inspection stations at borders in Spokane and along the Columbia River at Plymouth, southwest of the Tri-Cities. WDFW checked more than 10,000 boats as they entered Washington. This year, the inspections stations will open in early spring and run until late fall.

“We are trying our best to keep invasive mussels out,” said Sgt. Pam Taylor, of the WDFW Enforcement program. “So if you are transporting watercraft into Washington, be prepared to stop!”

Also this year, WDFW has partnered with the National Park Service to provide greater protection of the Columbia River basin. An agreement between the two agencies gives national park rangers at Lake Roosevelt National Area authority to conduct boat inspection throughout the summer. This agreement is considered a groundbreaking move in the fight against aquatic invasive species and could be implemented at other national parks.

Mandatory Prevention Permit for Out-of-Staters

In addition to the inspection stations, people from out-of-state need to buy a WDFW Aquatic Invasive Species Prevention Permit before using their boats and other watercrafts on Washington State waters. New this year, the permits can be purchased online. The prevention permit also is required by seaplane operators and commercial transporters of vessels.

“Preventing the spread of aquatic invasive species is serious business,” Pleus said. Researchers estimate that invasive zebra and quagga mussels alone could cost the power industry more than $3 billion, and industries, businesses and communities more than $5 billion nationwide over 6 years.”

“As a boater, your diligence in preventing aquatic invasive species will protect Washington’s water and ensure that future Washingtonians can experience the same water activities that you enjoy,” Capt. Anderson said.

“Washington State and the Pacific Northwest are the last area in the United States to be free of these invasive mussels, and we want to keep it that way,” Bush said. To protect the Pacific Northwest, tribes, the federal government, states and nonprofit organizations have come together to address this issue through research, inspection and decontamination efforts and rapid response exercises.

The Invasive Species Council, established by the Legislature in 2006, provides policy level direction, planning and coordination to combat and prevent harmful invasive species throughout the state. To learn more about how you can prevent the spread of damaging invasive species, visit the council’s Web site. Learn more about aquatic invasive species by visiting WDFW’s Web site.

LINK: https://www.rco.wa.gov/doc_pages/press/2018/180.shtml

Staff report, Washington Invasive Species Council & Washington Department of Fish and Wildlife PAO