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Invasive Species: Stealing Your Access

Non-native species threaten hunting and fishing across America.

Invasive Species: Stealing Your Access

Game and fish species displaced by invasive species often can’t compete and are driven into marginal habitats. (Photo courtesy of Wildlife Forever)

It’s like a scene from an action movie: The silent invaders slip in undetected, leaving a wake of destruction. But this isn’t Hollywood, and invasive species are a threat that’s all too real.

Have non-native species invaded your favorite fishing or hunting spot? Chances are you’re impacted by them whether you’re aware of them or not. They’ve invaded public waters, wilderness areas, national parks, forests, refuges and backyards. Invasive plants, animals and pathogens are changing the landscape. And, they cost us billions of dollars to treat and repair the damages they cause.

For hunters and anglers, invasive species have huge impacts. Displaced game species often can’t compete, are driven into marginal habitats and suffer. Some invasive species are even pushing native plants and animals to extinction.


Zebra and quagga mussels foul boats, motors and water infrastructure. They reproduce rapidly, coating docks and hard surfaces and ruining spawning habitat. Anglers are forced to fish deeper and, because of the mussels’ sharp shells, use braided line.

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Many hunters know the damage feral hogs can do. They carry disease, destroy crops and can be aggressive. The list of invasive species continues to grow, as does the cost for game and fish departments to manage and control them.

Unfortunately, that cost gets passed down to you. Some states increase fishing or boating registration fees. In other states, the costs come in the form of mandatory police inspections, boater check points or even closed access to public lands and water. Yes, gated access.

Prolific zebra and quagga mussels adhere to even turtle shells. They foul boat motors, clog water intakes and ruin habitat. (Photo courtesy of Wildlife Forever)


Hunters and anglers are responding by helping Wildlife Forever lead the Clean Drain Dry Initiative, a national public service campaign to educate, inform and teach sportsmen and women how to prevent the spread of invasive species. The national campaign reaches millions of people each year to instill conservation practices and protect our natural resources at the boat ramp, on the trail and in the field.

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Through a growing coalition of members and supporters, the Clean Drain Dry Initiative produces ready-made resources and media tools to help the message into action. Clean Drain Dry television commercials air during the weekend weather. As you drive to the lake or woods, radio ads remind you to clean your gear. New cleaning stations located at the trailhead or boat ramp are being installed to help hunters and anglers clean their boats and ATVs. A mobile app called “Wild Spotter” can also be used to report and map invasive species when hunting in the backcountry.

Prevention is the key. Knowing what to do to halt the spread must be part of every outdoor activity. From fishing andhunting to hiking and biking, the clean, drain and dry mantra can help keep invasive species at bay—and your public lands and waters open.

Clean, drain and dry all boots, boats and equipment. As hunters and anglers, we can’t afford to lose precious ground thatwe’ve invested in, nor can we afford more regulations. For more information about Wildlife Forever and helping the Clean Drain Dry Initiative in your state, check out


Pat Conzemius is President and CEO of Wildlife Forever.

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