The legislature wants to override the AIS penalties | Local news
JACKSON – A Cheyenne legislature is drafting new penalties to protect the state’s waters from a record number of vessels rolling down Wyoming boat ramps.
The threat the boats pose comes from invasive aquatic species that happen to ride along, such as the curly pondweed and New Zealand mud snails recently discovered in the Flaming Gorge Reservoir.
When alien plants and animals are illegally introduced and establish themselves in the environment, they can cause drastic ecological changes in Wyoming lakes and rivers, which are now mostly home to native species.
“When we looked at zebra mussels, we got a lot of testimony about bodies of water in places like Minnesota and Michigan that are completely contaminated,” Senator Affie Ellis, R-Laramie County, told the Jackson Hole Daily. “I think that unfortunately makes people desensitized because these things are everywhere anyway.”
“But in Wyoming,” she said, “we still have really pristine waters, and we want to make sure it stays that way.”
Ellis, the attorney, thought of ways to do just that, and came up with an additional layer of liability for rowers and powerboaters who violate Wyoming AIS regulations. Boaters must undergo an inspection every time they start in the state after crossing the Wyoming borders. They also have to stop whenever they are towing a vehicle and passing an official checkpoint.
But control stations are not manned around the clock. And boaters from abroad often don’t know the rules.
A bill that Ellis spearheaded and will table to the Wyoming Legislature’s Interim Committee on Travel, Recreation, Wildlife and Cultural Resources would result in hefty fines for people to skip their mandatory inspection, go boating – and then a new invasive species becomes in discovered the same waterway.
There is currently a significant penalty for introducing a new species.
“But the difficulty is in proving that a particular vessel was the one that introduced an invasive species of water into a water source,” said Ellis, chairman of the interim committee. “So the main idea is to create strict liability instead of just increasing the penalty. The intent of this bill is to create heightened deterrence for people who use their craft without inspection. “
The fine for an illegal launch and subsequent AIS discovery would be up to $ 25,000, according to the bill. This penalty would only come into play if a water source in Wyoming is contaminated.
Ellis is clearing some details of the legislation she is working on in collaboration with the Wyoming Game and Fish Department.
The length of time that can elapse, for example, between an illegal start, an AIS discovery and liability is indefinite.
The details are planned to be worked out at the Travel, Recreation and Wildlife Committee meeting on August 27th in Dubois.
Boating in the Equality State is more popular than ever, which increases the risk of introducing harmful species.
“Last year was a record number of boats we checked and we are well on our way to surpass that,” Chris Wight, regional AIS supervisor for Game and Fish, told the Jackson Hole Daily.
In general, he said, compliance is worse here than anywhere else in the state.
“Our Jackson compliance rate tends to be a little lower because we have so many first-time visitors and they just don’t know about the program,” Wright said.