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Invasive species threaten Nevada, Sandoval says at workshop

STATELINE — Laura Megill keeps a strange object on display in a glass case inside her Nevada Department of Wildlife office.

A shoe, covered almost completely from heel to toe in quagga mussels.

The shoe had been left in Lake Mead for 12 months, according to Megill, the aquatic invasive species coordinator for the department, and it’s meant to show just how quickly a single mussel can spread.

“This is a great visual aid,” Megill said.

Megill’s mussel-covered shoe was on full display in Stateline for the Western Governors Association’s two-day workshop on biosecurity and invasive species, where Gov. Brian Sandoval and other state and environmental leaders from the West discussed the battle against the likes of quagga and zebra mussels, cheatgrass and other invasive species that can devastate delicate ecosystems such as nearby Lake Tahoe.

Sandoval highlighted the impact those species have had on states by noting that more than 1 million acres have been burned by wildfires this year in Nevada, including nearly 450,000 acres torched in the Martin Fire north of Winnemucca this summer.

The blaze was fueled in large part by the non-native cheatgrass and wiped out both prime cattle grazing lands and some of the state’s premier habitat for the protected sage grouse. And now, Sandoval said, without significant and immediate action, the burned area could be one where even more cheatgrass is able to flourish.

“This is a problem throughout the West,” Sandoval said after his speech.

One of the areas the group is looking at as a success story is Lake Tahoe, which has been dealing with species like the Eurasian watermilfoil and Asian clam and managed to keep any new invasive species from entering the lake in 10 years.

And it’s sharing techniques like those used at Tahoe — which include a robust boat inspection system, the use of rubber mats on the lake bottom to effectively suffocate Asian clams and UV light to kill weeds — is the key to the workshop, Sandoval said.

“They may be doing things in Washington, Oregon, Wyoming, Colorado, California that we might not be doing,” Sandoval said. “We’ll learn something, there’s no doubt in my mind — imitation is the greatest form of flattery — and use that to best protect our lands.”

Contact Capital Bureau Chief Colton Lochhead at clochhead@reviewjournal.com. Follow @ColtonLochhead on Twitter.

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