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DNR raises awareness of invasive species

BEMIDJI -- Lakes in the Bemidji area are safe from many invasive species and to keep it that way the Minnesota Department of Natural Resources is asking for the communities support to keep it that way.

"We are all responsible for our lakes," DNR invasive species specialist Christine Herwig said at the Friends of Lake Bemidji meeting Thursday night at the Hampton Inn. "We are doing this large educational campaign because we all need to do our part to prevent the spread of these species."

Herwig reviewed the invasive species laws, highlighting the requirements for boaters to follow. The requirements include removing visible plants, animals and mud from boats and trailers before leaving the water access; draining water from boat, motor, live well and bait containers. She said that unwanted bait should not be released into the water, it has to be thrown away, or she suggested passing it on to another boater at the water access before leaving.

Boat lifts that are taken out of the water to be transported to another lake have to remain dry for 21 days first, to ensure all invasive species have been killed off.

Herwig listed some of the aquatic invasive species found on Minnesota lakes including; zebra mussels, faucet snails, mystery snails rusty crawfish. She also listed invasive plants such as curly-leaf pondweed, purple loosestrife, Eurasian watermilfoil and spiny waterflea.

The common theme with all of these species is that they disrupt the natural habitat because there are no natural predators for them and they reproduce rapidly.

The DNR has inspectors across the state that check boats as they enter and leave lakes, making sure laws are being followed. The inspectors have the right to search boat and can deny access to the lake when necessary.

Herwig said the DNR cannot be on every lake, so there is an honor system that applies. People are encouraged to take a three hour training course to learn how to identify the various species and make sure that boaters are following instructions at the boat landings.

Once the course has been taken, the volunteers can pass on their knowledge to boaters but they do not have the right to deny access to boaters.