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What is Colorado Doing about Invasive Species?
What is Colorado Doing about Invasive Species?
boat Inspection

​​​​​​​​​​​​​​​​Invasive Species Program

Mission Statement

The Invasive Species Program Mission is to protect... 

  • ​Natural resources
  • Wildlife
  • Outdoor recreation
  • Infrastructure 
  • The economy 
This effort centers around preventing the introduction of harmful invasive species, including: 

  • Aquatic nuisance species 
  • Noxious weeds
  • Exotic forest pests 
  • Invasive mammals
It also involves containing current infestations to stop the spread into new waters or lands.

The mission of Colorado Parks and Wildlife (CPW) is to perpetuate the wildlife resources and outdoor recreational opportunities of the state and provide people the opportunity to enjoy them. Invasive species can devastate wildlife habitat by outcompeting native species for food and shelter, and disrupting wildlife related recreation.  Without a coordinated prevention program, early detection and rapid response to new invasions, wildlife habitat and outdoor recreation are at serious risk.​


scuba diver
The Invasive Species Program came to be after Zebra and/or Quagga Mussels were identified in eight reservoirs in Colorado in 2008 during multi-year statewide sampling effort conducted by the Division of Wildlife, in partnership with Parks, the U.S. Fish & Wildlife Service and the U.S. Bureau of Reclamation.  Zebra mussels, and their close relatives quagga mussels, are highly invasive aquatic species that negatively affect plankton communities, fisheries, water based recreation, and water supply and distribution systems for municipal, industrial and agricultural supply. 

The State Aquatic Nuisance Species (ANS) Act was passed by the General Assembly in May 2008. The Act defines ANS as, "exotic or nonnative aquatic wildlife or any plant species that have been determined to pose a significant threat to the aquatic resources or water infrastructure of the state." It makes it illegal to possess, import, export, ship, transport, release, plant, place, or cause an ANS to be released. The Act allocated funding to ANS programs in both the DOW and Parks, which are now one agency, Colorado Parks and Wildlife (CPW). 

The Act provides authority to qualified peace officers to inspect and, ifANS decontamination necessary, decontaminate or quarantine watercraft for ANS. It also provides authority for trained authorized agents to inspect and decontaminate watercraft for ANS.

The Parks Board passed regulations required by the Act on February 20, 2009. The rules require mandatory watercraft inspection and if necessary decontamination of all boats coming in from out of state, leaving known positive waters in Colorado, and those entering a high risk water where inspections and decontaminations are required by the managing agency.  The rules have set the standard for watercraft inspection, decontamination, impoundment, sampling, monitoring, identification and reporting.

The State Zebra and Quagga Mussel Management Plan (ZQM Plan) was drafted in 2009. The backbone of the ZQM Plan includes containment and prevention through watercraft inspection and decontamination, sampling and monitoring, education and outreach, communications and information, and applied research. 

CPW provides ANS support to all waters of the state, and to all inspection stations, regardless of jurisdiction.  Services provided include: 

  • ​Site-specific planning
  • Training and certification​​boat inspection
  • Watercraft inspection and decontamination
  • Law enforcement support
  • Educational materials
  • Workshops and conferences
  • Sampling/monitoring
  • ANS identification
  • Cost-share opportunities 
  • Motorboat Colorado Grants

Since that time, Parks and Wildlife has built up an extensive network of approximately 72 boat inspection and decontamination stations that are operated collaboratively by state, local, federal and private entities.  These stations are all certified by CPW and conduct over 425,000 inspections annually – each of which is a face-to-face educational contact with a sportsman or boater. There have been 106 infested mussel boats intercepted coming into Colorado from out of state. ​These infested boats pose a serious threat to the way we use water in Colorado. Prevention through boat inspections and education is our best defense!

In addition to coordinating the statewide ANS program implementation, the Invasive Species Coordinator also provides services to assist with terrestrial noxious weed and forest pest management in Colorado.


​​​​CPW's Invasive Species Program is actively engaged in research projects related to invasive species prevention, control and management. 

The most recent project was concluded by the University of Nevada Reno researchers by the lakeand was funded through a partnership with the PSMFC, National Park Service, Lake Tahoe, State of California and the National Marine Manufacturers Association. This project included the testing of a ballast tank filter that could potentially eliminate the​ movement of ANS in recreational ballast tanks. ​​The filters were successful and prevent zooplankton, including zebra and quagga mussel veligers and waterfleas, from entering ballast tanks and being moved by recreational watercraft.  As such, the filters eliminate the need for decontamination of these systems to kill veligers in standing water, which greatly increase the efficacy of WID stations and reduce operational costs.  The Mussel MastR filter is now available for purchase at select Colorado Marine Dealers.

Completed ANS Research Projects Include:

  • Economic Analysis of Invasive Species in Colorado; Focus on Noxious Weeds. Colorado State University. December 2013.
  • A risk assessment of recreational boating traffic and aquatic nuisance species (Dreissena mussel) invasion to lakes, rivers and reservoirs of the Western United States. Western Regional Panel and University of California Davis.  March 2011.

  • Potential Zebra and Quagga Mussel Control Studies: Focus on Boat Decontamination of Interior Compartments.  Colorado State University.  May 2011.

  • A Cost-Benefit Analysis of Prevention Management for Zebra and Quagga Mussels in the Colorado Big-Thompson Project.  Colorado State University.  July 2010.

  • Statewide Risk Analysis and Modeling of Dreissena Mussels.  University of Toledo.  September 2010.

  • Colorado State Parks Risk Analysis and Modeling of Dreissena Mussels.  University of Toledo.  September 2010.

  • Assessment of Quagga Mussel Veliger Treatments for Pueblo State Fish Hatchery Transport.  Reclamation.  October 2010. ​​​​