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Minnesota DNR: Partnering to fight spread of aquatic invasive species

Last year there were 5 million boat launches in Minnesota. There were two zebra mussel veligers discovered in Lake Winnibigoshish this past summer.

My point: there are countless opportunities for aquatic invasive species to enter a lake, but once there, it doesn’t take many to infest it.

Seventy people gathered Feb. 1 in Walker to discuss the challenge of managing aquatic invasive species. The Minnesota Department of Natural Resources administers rules prohibiting aquatic invasive species, regulates use of waters that are infested, and enforces laws regarding transportation of aquatic invasive species. At the open house in Walker, DNR regional managers shared how DNR addresses those charges through internal operations.

For example, at the DNR shop, when equipment is brought in for service, dirt and debris is bagged and disposed of. That’s because soil disturbances carry terrestrial invasive species. At the fish hatcheries, well water is used for fish transportation and hatcheries are being equipped with filters to remove potential aquatic invasives. After a day of sampling, field crews clean equipment and boats thoroughly. Any uncleaned boats are tagged until they can be cleaned.

Managing DNR staff, land and facilities is just part of the job. The Walker AIS event acknowledged the work done by lake associations and local units of government to manage aquatic invasive species. DNR provided nearly $300,000 in grants to the counties and lake associations of northwestern Minnesota to support local efforts to inspect watercraft and to spread the message about aquatic invasive species. Hubbard County’s lake associations contributed an additional $56,000 to protect 200 lakes.

Douglas County tried to be proactive when zebra mussel veligers were found in Lake Le Homme Dieu and closed two channels on the Alexandria chain of lakes. Residents didn’t like it and the veligers didn’t care – today, 13 lakes are infested. The county has moved to a broad awareness campaign where diners at local restaurants eat off placemats explaining how to stop aquatic hitch hikers. Likewise, Becker County volunteers produced folders about aquatic invasive species and gave them to resorts and motels to educate guests.

All told, the efforts of volunteers and local governments in Douglas, Becker and Hubbard counties resulted in inspection of approximately 25,000 boats. That’s small compared to the number of boat launches, but it shows how partnerships can help all of us manage the spread of aquatic invasive species.

It is daunting. It is not futile. There will be more lakes infested, but there will be containment. “DNR works to build a culture of awareness, planning and prevention,” said John Williams, DNR regional wildlife manager, in his presentation at the Walker event. Spreading the word about how aquatic invasive species travel and planning to minimize the number of pathways will help prevent their spread. The fact is, if you plan on entering a lake or stream this summer, prevention begins with your awareness and planning.

Article written by Molly MacGregor,  a planner for the DNR’s Northwest Region. She can be reached at (218) 308-2660 or