New invasive species pass required for MT anglers

By: 
Enterprise Staff

Who says government moves slowly?

A 2017 Montana Legislature bill to provide funding to fight aquatic invasive species, signed by Gov. Steve Bullock on Thursday, takes effect today. 

The new Aquatic Invasive Species Prevention Pass will be required for all anglers, effective today, Friday, May 19. The cost is $2 for residents and $15 for nonresidents. The pass is not a license fee increase, but an additional requirement from the legislature to fund the fight against aquatic invasive species, according to a news release issued Thursday by the Montana Department of Fish, Wildlife and Parks. 

The good news is that when anglers purchase their licenses from now on, the AIS fee will be already included, FWP spokesman Greg Lemon said Friday. 

The AIS Prevention Pass will be available at all Montana Fish, Wildlife and Parks license providers and also online beginning May 19. Anglers who have already purchased licenses will need to go online or to a license provider to purchase the new pass.

“We know this will be an inconvenience for some anglers, but protecting the health of our waterways is critical,” FWP Director Martha Williams said in the release. “The AIS program we have in place is our best chance at keeping mussels from spreading to other Montana waters and at keeping other invasive species from gaining a foothold in the state.”

Licenses may be purchased online at www.fwp.mt.gov. The “Buy a license” tab is located on the right side of the FWP home page. 

Also included in the bill, SB 363, was a fee for hydro-electric facilities. 

The AIS Prevention Pass is anticipated to generate about $3.2 million in revenue per year. The hydro-electric fee will generate about $3.7 million.

The 2017 Legislature provided additional funding for FWP’s aquatic invasive species program after the discovery last fall of aquatic invasive mussel larvae in water samples from Tiber Reservoir. A sample from Canyon Ferry Reservoir also turned up suspect for the mussel larvae.

In response, Gov. Steve Bullock declared a natural resources emergency in November and an interagency incident command team was organized to coordinate the response to the detection, the release said. 

The resulting response plan includes increasing the number of inspection stations around the state, operating decontamination stations at both Tiber and Canyon Ferry Reservoir, expanding public education and outreach, and doubling the water sampling efforts for mussel larvae around Montana. 

The new AIS prevention pass will be required for all anglers, including those who have purchased a license prior to May 19, the release stated. 

Also, because it is a separate program and not a fee increase, the pass also may be purchased by non-anglers who want to help contribute to Montana’s fight against aquatic invasive species.