Debate continues on whether, in an effort to stymie the spread of aquatic invasive species, to ban felt-soled wading boots in Yellowstone’s waters.
We previously reported in May that the park was weighing a ban, arguing that felt boots are more susceptible to picking up aquatic species like mud snails and parasites, inadvertently introducing them into Yellowstone’s lotic (flowing) ecosystem.
However, according to the Bozeman Daily Chronicle, the jury’s still out on whether the park wants to pursue that strategy. Anglers who prefer felt-soled wading boots argue rubber has less traction compared to felt, which could pose a safety risk. Others argue rubber soles mean nothing if they aren’t kept clean. From the Chronicle:
[Senior fisheries biologist Todd] Koel told the Chronicle in an interview earlier this summer that the park is looking at a number of ways to safeguard its waters from invasives, and that banning felt is definitely an option. A decision is likely to come before the next fishing season, either this fall or early winter.
Koel said the issue is that felt is harder to clean. It’s hard to wash everything out of the sole, and it takes longer for felt to dry. Park biologists switched to using only rubber soles a few years back, and he presented the idea of banning felt for recreational anglers at a series of public meetings earlier this year.
The debate over banning felt is nothing new. Several states require anglers to stick to rubber. Maryland was the first, doing so in early 2011. Alaska, Missouri, Nebraska, South Dakota and Rhode Island have joined Maryland. The Montana Legislature has considered the idea in the past, but it has never gained traction.
After all the action early in this decade, conversations about banning felt seemed to disappear. Bob Wiltshire, the executive director of the Invasive Species Action Network, said the most recent action he could remember was Vermont repealing its ban in 2016, evidently deciding the benefit wasn’t worth the hassle.
While many agree felt poses a higher risk than rubber, banning felt by itself is not a perfect solution. Invasive species can hitchhike on practically anything, and preventing their spread depends heavily on anglers cleaning their gear.
“A felt-soled boot that has been cleaned represents far less risk than a rubber-soled boot that has not been cleaned,” Wiltshire said.
Wiltshire declined to comment specifically on whether banning felt would make sense for the park, saying he wanted to wait and see what the park actually proposed later this year.
Koel points out that banning felt-soled wading boots may not be an ideal, or even comprehensive, solution. However, Koel views it as his responsibility (and the responsibility of the fisheries department and Yellowstone as a whole) to look out for the health of the park’s river and streams.
Indeed, the Chronicle points out Yellowstone’s waters help feed big name rivers like the Snake and the Missouri. Koel argues taking action now is in everyone’s best interests.