Trump Administration’s Unprecedented Conservation Achievements Help Tame Invasive Mussels in Western Waters

Last edited 02/15/2023

Date: Tuesday, Nov. 10, 2020

WASHINGTON, D.C. — The Trump Administration continues to fulfill its commitments to Western states and tribes by investing significant funding to help prevent, contain and control invasive mussels that, if left unchecked, can damage water and power supplies, diminish recreational boating and fishing opportunities and devastate the economic and ecological health of Western waters.  

The Safeguarding the West from Invasive Species initiative—among the first invasive species management efforts undertaken by the Department of the Interior under the Trump Administration—is part of an unprecedented investment in managing destructive invasive species across the United States. It represents a significant effort by Interior to enhance actions by federal, state and tribal governments to prevent the spread of invasive zebra and quagga mussels to uninfested Western waters, such as those in the Columbia River Basin and Lake Tahoe, and to contain and control them where they are established, such as in Lake Powell and the Lower Colorado River region. 

“Our partners—in particular Western governors—have stepped up to help ensure that we maintain healthy and unimpeded water supplies to power the West and protect thriving outdoor tourism economies,” said Acting Assistant Secretary for Policy, Management and Budget Scott Cameron. “They asked us to do our part—and Interior fulfilled our commitments.” 

Invasive mussels are estimated to annually cause more than $1 billion in economic impacts and management costs. Interior invested $56 million in invasive species management in the Western states from Fiscal Year 2017 through Fiscal Year 2020, which was an increase of $27 million compared to the previous four years.  

Through Safeguarding the West, Interior’s bureaus have leveraged ongoing actions and enabled new opportunities to meet evolving needs that have impacts beyond the Western states, such as providing guidance on the use of environmental DNA (eDNA) for invasive species monitoring, leading research on effective control techniques and leveraging funding to meet mutual priorities. 

Highlights of accomplishments under Safeguarding the West include: 

In the Columbia River Basin, where mussels have yet to invade, Interior and its partners expanded regional watercraft inspection and decontamination programs, strengthened coordinated monitoring, tested rapid response plans and developed an Endangered Species Act consultation manual to expedite environmental compliance during emergency response to mussel detections. 

In the Colorado River Basin, federal and state partners initiated and expanded containment programs at Glen Canyon National Recreation Area, Lake Mead National Recreation Area, Lake Havasu and other mussel-infested waterbodies by enhancing watercraft inspection and decontamination programs, improving cross-boundary notifications of high-risk watercraft movements, working with marinas and concessionaires and increasing education efforts, so the public can better protect the waters they value.

One of the signature deliverables of Safeguarding the West was an agreement among the Bureau of Land Management, Bureau of Reclamation, National Park Service and U.S. Fish and Wildlife Service to fund two core elements of a Westwide watercraft inspection and decontamination program: a regional database and annual training. 

Other key Interior actions taken under Safeguarding the West include: 

  • Bureau of Indian Affairs funding supported projects important to tribes, such as Salish Kootenai College students who assisted with watercraft inspections and other efforts in tribal and public waters.
  • The Bureau of Land Management and partners developed a strategy to contain the spread of invasive mussels in the Lower Colorado River downstream from Lake Havasu.
  • The Bureau of Reclamation developed vulnerability assessments for power facilities and infrastructure at risk of mussel infestation in the Columbia River Basin.
  • The National Park Service formalized agreements with state, county and tribal governments to advance watercraft inspection and decontamination programs and other activities at Glen Canyon, Lake Mead, Lake Roosevelt, Curecanti and Lake Chelan National Recreation Areas. 
  • The U.S. Geological Survey improved monitoring speed and effectiveness by developing a portable eDNA kit to allow for water testing without having to sample the organism itself.
  • The U.S. Fish and Wildlife Service continued to support an “on-call” dive team to rapidly assist states with sampling to verify whether adult mussels are present. 
  • Interior increased cost-share grants to states, regional organizations and tribes to implement Aquatic Nuisance Species Management Plans.

“Collectively, Interior’s work at individual national parks, wildlife refuges and other land management units, with partners, and through the actions implemented through Safeguarding the West, have contributed to a more effective effort to prevent, contain and control invasive mussels,” said Cameron. “The benefits from the comprehensive initiative were much greater than if the activities had been undertaken in isolation.” 

The initiative has advanced priorities identified in interagency plans, strengthened relationships with western governors, states, tribes and other partners and increased Interior’s engagement at national, regional and field levels on policy and programs. 

Safeguarding the West is one among several recent Trump Administration invasive species initiatives, including Interior’s draft Invasive Species Strategic Plan developed in consultation with tribes, states and other stakeholders. When finalized and implemented, the plan will allow Interior to be a more responsive partner to state and tribal agencies and to combat invasive species without adding regulations that impede business and our economy. 

Invasive species cause damages that impact the global economy, including an estimated $120 billion in environmental damages and economic losses annually in the United States. The Trump Administration has taken significant actions to more effectively manage invasive species, which impact water supplies, impair hunting and fishing opportunities, interfere with energy production, exacerbate wildfires, damage America’s agriculture and drive native species to extinction. In Fiscal Year 2020, Interior invested an estimated $143 million to manage invasive species with significant investments also being made in the Great Lakes region and the Florida Everglades.  


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