Hanson named new AIS coordinator

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Erik Hanson

A new director has been named to help with preventative measures against invasive mussel species in Flathead Lake, the Confederated Salish and Kootenai Tribes have announced.

The Division of Fish, Wildlife, Recreation and Conservation has announced the new hire of Erik Hanson as Aquatic Invasive Species Coordinator, according to a press release from the tribes’ Natural Resources Department.

Hanson began the position June 29 and has 15 years of experience working with AIS issues. He most recently served as AIS consultant for the Flathead Basin Commission.

According to an email from Hanson, “the primary focus” of preventative measures are Zebra and Quagga mussels.

Hanson said that the species are capable of causing “immense harm to the environment, native species and create severe economic impacts” and are spread by boats that are taken to multiple bodies of water.

The mussels could potentially devastate native species by stripping the water of plankton, causing the trout, whitefish and native mussel species to decrease. Harmful algal blooms could become frequent as well.

“The Tribes are working hard to ensure that Western Montana is free of invasive mussels,” Tom McDonald, Division of Fish, Wildlife, Recreation and Conservation manager said in the statement.

The species were first discovered in the Great Lakes in 1988 and have spread to every major watershed in the United States except the Columbia River, Hanson confirmed.

In the nearby Tiber Reservoir and Canyon Ferry Reservoir last fall, the invasive species were detected.

The preventative effort, Hanson stated, “is for Tribal waters and the Greater Flathead Region.”

Tips for helping in the preventative effort include completely removing all mud, water and vegetation before leaving the access area of a body of water; drain all water from watercraft and other equipment; and dry watercraft and fishing equipment thoroughly.

For more information regarding invasive mussels, visit http://csktnomussels.org.

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