Posts tagged: invasive species
At the recent Western Governors Association meeting in Las Vegas, Idaho Gov. Butch Otter brandished a license plate that had been soaked for a year in Lake Mead and was encrusted with invasive quagga mussels, asking Interior Secretary Sally Jewell when the Obama Administration would get inspection and contamination stations up and running at the infested lake to help halt the spread of the invasive species. BSU political science professor Justin Vaughn was in the audience, and reported that Jewell made it clear she’s aware of the issue and said she’d look into it; his full report in the Blue Review is online here. Vaughn reported that Otter offered Jewell the mussel-encrusted license plate to take back to Washington, D.C., but she declined – it’s illegal to transport invasive species.
Idaho Rep. Eric Anderson, R-Priest Lake, soaked 500 of the license plates in the infested lake for displays to help make the point about the threat from the mussels, which haven't yet invaded Idaho. “We'll lose so much if these get into our region,” he said, adding that he was “thrilled” to see the issue take center stage so dramatically at the WGA conference.
A new invasive insect has turned up in Ada and Kootenai counties, prompting warnings from the state Department of Agriculture. The Japanese beetle, a half-inch-long, shiny metallic-green bug with copper-brown wing covers, destroys trees, rose bushes, stone fruits, garden and field crops, and its larvae or grubs destroy turf by feeding on the roots of grass. If you seen green and yellow traps, that's what they're for; Ag is also asking anyone who finds one of the bugs to place the dead specimen in a baggie and mail it in - there's more info here. The beetle first was introduced to the United States in plants imported from Japan.
Idaho, Oregon and Washington have jointly launched a “Squeal on Pigs” campaign to combat the latest invasive species - feral swine - that's turned up in all three states. Originating in Europe and Asia and imported for domestic use, the wild pigs, also known as the Russian boar, can grow to several hundred pounds and cause extensive damage to crops, wildlife and habitat; the three states' invasive species councils want folks to be on the lookout for the swine in the wild and report them if seen.
It's not just their destructive rooting and grubbing. Feral swine, defined as any pig that is not confined within a fenced property, often carry diseases that may be transmitted to livestock or humans; they prey on lambs, calves, fawns, upland birds and other wildlife; and they're remarkably fertile, producing a couple of litters of four to eight piglets a year and traveling long distances to invade new watersheds. Oregon has the most of the three states right now - 3,000 to 5,000 - and the Northwest states don't want to end up like heavily infested Texas, which sees more than $50 million a year in damage from feral swine.
“We don't know who brought 'em in or how they came,” said Amy Ferriter, Idaho's invasive species council coordinator. “That's really why we're trying to get the word out. If people see these things in the wild, they should report them to us.” The “Squeal on Pigs” campaign includes a toll-free hotline number to call: (888) 268-9219. The campaign's full slogan is: “Squeal on Pigs! Protect our Water and Land from Feral Pigs.” You can read my full story here at spokesman.com.
Tens of thousands of boat inspections later, Idaho and Washington have come through another boating season without getting invasive quagga or zebra mussels established in either state's waters - but there were plenty of close calls. Idaho intercepted 24 mussel-contaminated boats entering the state, and Washington decontaminated 20. While most were coming from the heavily infested Great Lakes region, nearly half were Northwest-bound from federal waters in Arizona and Nevada - and that has officials in both states concerned.
“Mussel-fouled boats continue to leave infested waters without proper decontamination,” Idaho Department of Agriculture Celia Gould said. “The federal government needs to do a better job of containing infestations in their waters and preventing the spread of these species to the Pacific Northwest states.”
Allen Pleus, aquatic invasive species coordinator for the Washington Department of Fish and Wildlife, said the good news is this: “To our knowledge, there are no established or known detections of zebra or quagga mussels in any Columbia River Basin locations, including British Columbia, Montana, Idaho, Oregon and Washington. So we're the last great water basin without these species in the United States.” You can read my full story here from Sunday's Spokesman-Review.
The first invasive mussels have been found on a boat entering Idaho at a checkpoint on U.S. Highway 93 in Twin Falls County near the Nevada state line, the Times-News reports. The 20-foot pontoon boat, which was headed to Cascade from Lake Havasu, Nev., was impounded by authorities and decontaminated, a process that took an hour and a half and incurred no cost to the boat owner, a Donnelly resident. Last year, Idaho checkpoints conducted 18,450 boat inspections and found two confirmed cases of invasive quagga or zebra mussels, plus an additional unconfirmed report; last year’s mussels were found at North Idaho checkpoints; click here for the full story, including video, from Times-News reporter Pat Marcantonio.
Idaho’s state Department of Agriculture plans to open its first boat-inspection stations of the season tomorrow, near Bruneau where highways 51 and 78 intersect, and near Marsing on Highway 95. An additional check station on U.S. 93 just north of the Nevada state line will open on Saturday; all will operate seven days a week. The idea is to check all watercraft and equipment - motorized or not - for invasive quagga or zebra mussels. The department said in an announcement, “It is important that boaters arrive in Idaho with a clean, drained and dry watercraft.”
The fast-reproducing invasive mussels can be carried from one waterway to another on boats, in live wells and buckets and elsewhere; the tiny mussels “feel like sandpaper to the touch” when carried on the hull of a boat, the department said. It advises washing watercraft thoroughly before bringing them into Idaho, preferably with hot water; draining all water; and letting watercraft dry for five days between launches. Additional check stations will open in North Idaho and elsewhere in the coming weeks; for more information, contact the department at (208) 332-8686.
Lawmakers from states and Canadian provinces throughout the Northwest are sending a sharply worded letter to the U.S. secretary of the interior and the Canadian minister of fisheries and oceans, seeking much more aggressive measures to contain quagga and zebra mussels once they’ve invaded an area waterway. The letter, from the Pacific Northwest Economic Region group, calls it “absolutely critical” that federal authorities move to contain and decontaminate boats as they leave Lake Mead in Nevada and other infested water bodies. It follows a similar letter sent by Idaho Gov. Butch Otter to Interior Secretary Ken Salazar a month ago.
“Mr. Secretary, please seriously consider instituting within all U.S. Department of Interior agencies, including the National Park Service and the U.S. Fish and Wildlife Service, a mandatory decontamination requirement for ALL vessels leaving mussel-infested waters such as Lake Mead,” Otter wrote. Otter’s office said he’s not yet received a reply. You can read my full story here at spokesman.com.
It’s a bit of an oddity that Idaho’s state legislator who’s been a key instigator of programs targeting aquatic invasive species, including quagga and zebra mussels, has the same name as the Washington Department of Fish and Wildlife aquatic invasive species coordinator. So at this morning’s invasive species session at the PNWER conference in Boise, Idaho Rep. Eric Anderson, R-Priest Lake, who is co-chairing the session, introduced himself first, and down the table, Sgt. Eric Anderson, when it was his turn, said, “I’m Eric Anderson, but I’m the Washington state Eric Anderson.” Allen Pleus, a Washington state official who was up next, said, “I’m not Eric Anderson.”
Then, when Amy Ferriter of the Idaho Department of Agriculture was showing a slide show about Idaho’s anti-mussel efforts, she came to a photo of both Andersons together. “For a long time, I thought they were the same person moonlighting,” Ferriter said to laughter. “They are different people.”
Starting in about a month, anyone pulling a boat into Idaho will have to pull over at a port of entry for inspection and possible decontamination, in an effort to keep invasive quagga and zebra mussels out of the state. Top state officials approved emergency measures today including nearly a dozen such inspection stations around the state, with one to be at Huetter on I-90 between Spokane and Coeur d’Alene. The $1.8 million in emergency measures also will include a statewide billboard campaign, education and outreach, signs on highways and boat ramps, and monitoring and enforcement. But most of the money will be spent on inspection and decontamination, to stop the fast-spreading, thumbnail-sized shellfish from turning Idaho’s lakes, reservoirs and beaches into shell-encrusted wastelands. That’s been the fate of numerous sites around the Great Lakes in Michigan, and the mussels in the past year have been spotted as far west as Utah and Nevada.
“We’re trying to get some of this put together as soon as we can, before we get too far into the boating season,” Lloyd Knight, administrator of the plant industries division at the state Department of Agriculture, told the state Board of Examiners today. Idaho Gov. Butch Otter, who chairs the Board of Examiners, said the emergency measures are warranted. “The estimate right now is about $92 million bucks if we do nothing and just allow this very aggressive species to come in,” he said. You can read my full story here at spokesman.com.