History of AIS Programming in Whitefish
Whitefish is perhaps the most progressive community in the state of Montana in addressing AIS issues. Since 2013, WLI has drafted and implemented a Whitefish AIS Management Plan that the Whitefish City Council has approved and funded. Each year, there are various tasks completed for early detection, monitoring and prevention. Some of these tasks include the Whitefish City Beach Watercraft Inspection Station and early detection monitoring of zebra mussels from environmental DNA (eDNA) analysis. Due to the generosity of the Joe and Cindy Gregory Family (WLI Members), an official watercraft inspection station was constructed at City Beach.
One previous gap for Whitefish Lake had been the lack of a watercraft inspection station at State Park. WLI partnered with Montana State Parks and the Montana Department of Natural Resources and Conservation (DNRC) to coordinate and implement a watercraft inspection capability there. Additionally, WLI continues to consult with AIS partners including Montana Fish, Wildlife & Parks (MFWP), DNRC, University of Montana, and the Confederated Salish and Kootenai Tribes as we go through the annual planning process. The City of Whitefish Community Services Coordinator, WLI’s Executive Director, and WLI’s Science and Education Director also received upper level watercraft inspection and decontamination training. WLI’s annual AIS Management Plan proposal to City Council remains adaptive in addressing the increased threat to our lake and community. In 2017, with funding provided by the Whitefish Community Foundation, WLI purchased a decontamination unit and associated safety equipment.
Since 2011, WLI has also partnered with MFWP to coordinate, administer, and train volunteers for the Northwest Montana Lakes Network. Through that program, volunteers collect water quality and AIS early detection samples from over 40 lakes in northwest Montana. That early detection sampling includes looking for the microscopic juvenile “veliger” stage of zebra mussels. Unfortunately, there is no perfect tool or set of tools in our toolbox to totally eliminate the AIS threat to Whitefish Lake. That’s why we need help from the public to clean, drain and dry your watercraft and equipment after each use.