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To sustain nature, we’re all in same boat

Today is Earth Day, and though I am no disciple of today’s green movement, I am a hunter, an angler and a conservationist. With spring fishing well under way, and the summer boating season just around the corner, it’s a good time to look at a few guidelines to make boating more environmentally friendly.

Some of the most significant challenges facing Nevada’s waterways today are the quagga mussel and other invasive species that travel between waters by hitching a ride on your boat, trailer or other aquatic gear. They also can stow away by settling somewhere on your tow vehicle.

Since its discovery in Lake Mead in January 2007, the quagga mussel has been found throughout much of the lower Colorado River system and in several other western lakes and reservoirs. Luckily, they have yet to be discovered in other Nevada waters, and natural resource managers hope it stays that way.

In order to prevent the possibility of moving a mussel or other invasive species between waterways, fishery biologists and other resource professionals nationwide encourage boaters to clean, drain and thoroughly dry their vessels before moving them from one water to another. Here in Southern Nevada, the recommended drying period is five days minimum during the hot summer months. In some areas of the country, that time period is at least 30 days, so be thankful we’re hot and dry.

On the subject of washing your boat, is the cleaning agent you’re using environmentally friendly and therefore fish friendly? If so, will it still do the job? The Boat U.S. Foundation tested 20 boat-cleaning products that sported labels with such green terms as “biodegradable,” “nontoxic,” “phosphate-free,” “environmentally friendly” and even “environmentally smart.”

“Weighing all the factors — cleaning performance, toxicity, biodegradability and cost — our Staff Pick is Thetford Boat Wash,” the test team wrote in its findings.

Another way boaters can be environmentally conscious is to limit the amount of gear they put in their boats. Some boaters seem to think their crafts double as U-Haul trucks. Folks at Boat U.S. recommend that you remove any unnecessary gear or equipment from your boat to increase fuel economy. Don’t forget your spring tuneup, and keep in mind that a clean hull, free of marine growth and unwanted quagga or zebra mussels, also will help.

No one likes to pull his boat into the back of a cove or take a walk along a beach only to find a collection of trash left by other recreationists. Always carry large plastic trash bags; the garden variety hold up better in outdoor surroundings than those for your kitchen. Make sure everyone who rides in your boat knows the rule: “Stash your trash.” Cigarette butts don’t belong in the water or on the shore, and neither does discarded fishing line.

Last, but definitely not least important, be careful when refueling on or near the water. The goal is to do so without spilling a drop. Don’t overfill your gas tank, and use approved containers. Tips for safe and clean refueling of your boat can be found online at www.helpstopthedrops.com.

Freelance writer Doug Nielsen is a conservation educator for the Nevada Department of Wildlife. His “In the Outdoors” column, published Thursday in the Las Vegas Review-Journal, is not affiliated with or endorsed by the NDOW. Any opinions he states in his column are his own. He can be reached at doug@takinitoutside.com.

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