Once again, it’s time to remember three very important words for boaters; clean, drain and dry.

Montana Fish, Wildlife and Parks are opening watercraft inspection stations in Kalispell and in Ravalli, Montana, according to Regional Information and Program Manager Dillon Tabish, who explained the importance of keeping aquatic invasive species out of Montana waters.

“We’ve seen other states get devastated by these invasive species like Quagga and Zebra mussels,” said Tabish. “They attach themselves to a boat and they’re very small, about the size of a small fingernail. Once they travel with that boat and go into a new clean body of water, they can quickly reproduce and rapidly take over that body of water. They can devastate the native species and the habitat, they can clog waterways, and they can wreck irrigation and power systems, so it’s just a huge problem that we’re trying to prevent in Montana.”

Tabish said the inspections take anywhere from 15 minutes to a half a hour and they are free of charge. He explained what happens if a boat is found to have aquatic invasive species.

“If they find something on your boat, they will immediately make sure that your boat is decontaminated,” he said. “We have decontamination stations across the state. That boat will be decontaminated and kind of placed on hold or on lockdown, so to speak, for up to 30 days to ensure that your boat is totally decontaminated, and that everything on there has been removed.”

Tabish said the watercraft inspection stations perform a vital service to the health and safety of Montana’s waterways.

“I can’t overemphasize how important this is,” he said. “We have such an amazing thing going on here in Montana and we’re trying to protect that. It’s what makes Montana the last best place for a reason. Just do a Google search and you’ll see what these AIS have done in other states, and it’s just heartbreaking to see lakes and rivers just get destroyed by these mussels and AIS.”

The three steps of “Clean, Drain, Dry” greatly minimize the risk of spreading AIS into new locations.

Clean: Completely remove all mud, water, and vegetation before leaving an access area.

Drain: All water from the watercraft and equipment needs to be drained.

Dry: Let your watercraft and equipment dry before launching in another area. Aquatic invaders can survive only in water and wet areas.

For more information on Montana’s defense against aquatic invasive species, visit cleandraindrymt.com.