Felt-Soled Boot Restrictions in the States and the Spread of Invasives

Since 2009, several states throughout the nation have begun to restrict the use of felt-soled wader and wading boots. States are changing standards in an attempt to decrease the spread of invasive species that the boots cause.

Felt soles on the bottom of boots are designed to create traction on slippery surfaces such as rocks, streams and rivers, allowing for stable movement as the felt fibers attach and form around surfaces.

The soles of boots with felt are made by condensing and matting wool into a tight network of fibers. The soles are pliable, with many fillable and fibrous spaces where organisms and materials can burrow into.

Research has shown that the material can trap and transfer a variety of harmful invasive organisms, such as New Zealand mudsnails, Didymo, or “rock snot”, and Myxobolus cereabralis, a parasite that infects trout and salmon.

Since the felt material takes a considerable time to dry, organisms can survive for long periods without dying. In a study where researchers exposed boots to Didymo, 5 hours after usage the organism was alive almost 3,000 times more in felt soles compared to rubber. After 36 hours, there was a significant yield of cells on the felt boots, compared to zero on the rubber-soled boots.

States that have created felt bans do so through either legislative or administrative action. The following table shows the lists of states with felt restrictions.

State

Restriction Information

Alaska

Administrative statewide ban on the use of felt, adopted in 2012.

Maryland

Administrative ban on the use of felt in all Maryland waters, adopted in 2011.

Missouri

Administrative rule banning the use of porous soled shoes, adopted in 2012.

Nebraska

Administrative ban on the use of felt, adopted in 2013.

Rhode Island

Administrative statewide ban on the use of felt, adopted in 2012.

South Dakota

Administrative statewide ban on the use of felt, adopted in 2013.

In Minnesota, it is illegal to transport prohibited species, such as New Zealand Mudsnails and zebra mussels, on waders. Other states that have considered felt bans but were not passed include Idaho, Maine, Montana, New Mexico and Oregon.  In addition, Vermont Legislature passed a five-year ban on the use of felt-soled waders, but it expired on July 1, 2016. 

Infestations caused by felt-soled boots are new to North America, and scientists are unsure of the long-term ecological impacts. However, fishing economies have begun to feel the impact on tourism and diets, prompting the recent passage of restrictions on the shoes.

 

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