Protecting Idaho’s Waters

Protecting Idaho's Waters

August 13, 2022

Naturalist Blog

Getting to the heart of what matters in the Sawtooth National Recreation Area

Protecting Idaho's Waters

I was surprised to learn recently that Idaho does not have a problem with zebra mussels. I figured that every state had invasive zebra mussels due to how common they are in the Finger Lakes of upstate New York where I grew up and how invasive they are throughout the United States. I’ve been wondering what makes Idaho different? What precautions are being taken in Idaho to maintain this “zero mussels” status?

Invasive species are a world-wide problem on both land and water. The term invasive species or “non-native” are used interchangeably to refer to a plant or animal that has moved into an area that it has not historically inhabited. Many invasive species multiply quicker than native species and can alter an ecosystem in no time. Non-native organisms can make what were once healthy ecosystems turn into dysfunctional ecosystems. They do this by crowding out, preying upon, and distressing native species.

To learn more about the efforts being made to prevent the spread of invasive species in Idaho I interviewed an Idaho State Department of Agriculture (ISDA) invasive species employee.

Here in the Stanley Basin the main boat launch at Redfish Lake, Sandy Beach, is where boats are screened for the presence of invasive species. The process of inspection is quick and easy! Any watercraft entering the lake must stop at the checkpoint and the owner must answer a few questions including registration number, zip code, and where the boat has been in the last 30 days. Then a visual inspection of the whole of the outside of the boat is performed. Any compartments that may hold standing water (ballast tanks or live wells) will also be checked. ISDA is looking for invasive species of zebra mussels, quagga mussels, Eurasian water milfoil and hydrilla. The whole process takes very little time and helps immensely with keeping Idaho’s lakes pristine.

Now you might be wondering what happens if an invasive species is found on a boat? Owners, and their boats, are directed to a site at Redfish where an ISDA employee will use a heated pressure washer to hot wash the boat. This process will kill whatever invasive species was found on the boat. Then the ISDA employee will call the invasive species hotline where a specialist will guide the employee through any further actions that need to be taken. If a live mussel is found further action is sometimes necessary and may involve holding the watercraft for 30 days as it undergoes a professional decontamination process.

Watercraft in Idaho are required to have an invasive species sticker. The funds raised from sticker sales go toward funding the non-native species prevention efforts. Inflatable paddle boards under 10 ft in length are the only watercraft excused from having to have an invasive species sticker. To get your boat an invasive species sticker, or see if your watercraft needs one, go to the following website:

Knowing more about invasive species and how to prevent them will help ensure Idaho’s beautiful waters remain pristine!

Julia Stachowski is a 2022 Naturalist for the Sawtooth Interpretive and Historical Association. She loves kayaking and hiking on her days off, as well as picking and cooking huckleberries.