The 4th of July is as good as any weekend to get the boat on the water. I don't want to sound like your overprotective mom but make sure you're responsible too, ok? That includes taking it easy on the liquor and making sure you eliminate any aquatic invasive species from your vessel.

What are aquatic invasive species?

Montana Game and Wildlife Aquatic Invasive Species Specialist Russ Hartzell defined an aquatic invasive species as "any plants, animals, can be pathogens that are aquatic in nature that are easily transported on waterborne equipment."

You've probably heard invasive species are harmful, but just in case you haven't... THEY ARE HARMFUL.

"They're a detriment because they're a non-native species that have tremendous ecological impacts when introduced to a new environment" said Hartzell. "But also generally have some pretty severe economical impacts."

The worst of them all... zebra mussels

Zebra mussels are very tiny mollusks that are invasive to the entire United States. The United States Geological Survey estimated zebra mussels arrived in the U.S. sometime in the 80s in the Great Lakes. They are menaces.

"They filter out algae that native species need for food and they attach to native mussels. Power plants must also spend millions of dollars removing zebra mussels from clogged water intakes." according to the USGS

The good news is Montana doesn't have any zebra mussels per Hartzell.

So let's keep it that way.

What Montanans need to do to avoid spreading aquatic invasive species

It's a pretty simple process.

"Because these are aquatic species they require water to survive," said Hartzell. "What we like to promote and make sure everybody is doing out there is clean, draining, and drying their boat."

Make sure to give your boat a wash job. Get all the mud, weeds, fish scales, and mermaid hair off your vessel. Drain it of any water and finally dry that sucker off.

Simple as that.

Another step a boater must take is stopping at watercraft inspection stations.

"They're generally pretty simple," added Hartzell. "Our prevention program aims to intercept boats from areas that are impacted by things like zebra mussels before they have a chance to launch in Montana. So we have roadside stations along all points of entry into the state and interstates."

A map of all inspection points can be found here.

Clean. Drain. Dry. Remember that and we'll be just fine.

LOOK: Historic 2022 Flooding in Southern Montana Not Soon to Be Forgotten

Widespread flooding wiped out roads, bridges, buildings, and powerlines throughout riverside communities from Yellowstone National Park and Paradise Valley to Red Lodge. The Yellowstone River winding through Billings crested Tuesday, June 14, 2022. At 11:30 a.m. the National Weather Service in Billings reported the river rose above flood stage and was forecasted to hit 14.7 feet, nearly hitting the 15-foot record set in 1997.

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