1. Why do I need to think about local AIS regulations? Aren't there enough federal and state laws that address invasive species?

In some instances, federal and state laws are adequate to address specific issues, such as the interstate movement of AIS. However, in many cases, the creation of local regulations address key gaps in, or strengthen, federal and state legislation, giving local entities, such as counties and cities, authorities to protect aquatic resources. Local regulations may also be desirable to provide additional protections for natural resources of value to the local community.

2. Where do I begin? How should I think about navigating the complexities of developing a local regulation, especially when there are so many potential entities that could be involved?

The best place to start is to walk through the decision tree at on the Regulatory Framework page of this website, and determine if there is a likely need for a local regulation. If you determine there is, convene relevant entities in your area to discuss the issue, identify existing local authorities that might or could apply to the problem, and/or consider the need for a new regulation to address the specific issue. Your initial convening will likely include relevant federal, state, and local partners. You can save a lot of time and effort by working with existing authorities to troubleshoot the problem and brainstorm possible solutions.


3. Isn't it a waste of time to focus effort and energy on aquatic invasive species, which will likely spread and become established through time?

No, it isn't a waste of time. In fact, through worldwide case studies, it has been demonstrated that every dollar invested in invasive species prevention efforts yields at least $13 dollars of economic benefit. And if you can address aquatic invasive species soon after introduction, in most cases, eradication is possible. If eradication is not possible, implementing a control and monitoring program to minimize the size of the AIS population and prevent further spread can often result in small, localized populations of AIS versus widespread establishment. 

4. What other advantages are there to developing local AIS regulations?

Lake Whatcom in Washington State is a great example of the benefits of developing a local AIS program and local regulations. Lake Whatcom sought to develop and institutionalize a "Whatcom Aquatic Invasive Species Program," which is a joint project of Whatcom County, the City of Bellingham, and the Lake Whatcom Water and Sewer District. The program is intended to protect Whatcom County's natural resources, infrastructure, recreation, wildlife, and economy from the impacts of AIS by preventing the introduction of new AIS to Whatcom County waters and stopping the spread of established AIS into new waters. To date, the program has conducted more than 80,000 watercraft inspections at Lake Whatcom and Lake Samish and has intercepted 19 boats transporting or suspected of transporting quagga mussels, 1,230 boats transporting vegetation, and another 2,433 boats that were either wet or had standing water on board Boat inspections are required by law (BMC 12.12.280 and WCC 2.27A).

5. Is a local AIS-specific regulation necessary?


It depends. There are both pros and cons of broad versus specific authorities. Some communities might wish to enact broad environmental protections for waterbodies that include AIS threats, whereas others may feel more comfortable enacting more limited provisions specific to the pathway and the AIS threat. Broad approaches to environmental policymaking can assist with the development of comprehensive programs to address a wide range of threats to a particular resource, but may raise questions regarding governmental authority or capacity to implement. Narrow approaches can allow for more targeted interventions to known risks, but may not provide enough flexibility to adapt to changing circumstances. Whether a broad or narrow approach is appropriate will vary depending on the circumstances and culture of the local government considering action.