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Task force to update Cass County's AIS management plan

Zebra mussels encrust clam shells in Cass Lake in 2016. (Forum News Service file photo)

BACKUS—Cass County Environmental Services Director John Ringle received county board approval Tuesday, Oct. 16, to reconvene the county's Aquatic Invasive Species Task Force to update the county's AIS Management Plan.

Cass was the first county in the state to write such a plan. Ringle said it now should be updated to keep the plan current.

The Cass County Soil and Water Conservation District Board was assigned the duty of distributing grant money each year to applicants seeking to fund projects to stop the spread of aquatic invasive species in the county's waterways.

The SWCD Board now is receiving numerous applications for funding each year and would like to seek an update to the plan to help them prioritize where to spend available money, Ringle said.

The original task force included representatives of lake associations, SWCD Board, a Cass County Board member and county agencies. Tuesday, the board added a Mississippi Headwaters Board representative to the re-convened task force and named Commissioner Scott Bruns to represent the county board.

Cass County has 514 lakes more than 10 acres in size and 129 public water accesses, with 79 of those permitting trailers to be backed into the water. There are additional accesses at privately owned resorts and marinas.

Much of what Cass County spent over the last five years to prevent the spread of aquatic invasive species was for inspectors to educate the public at public accesses about ways to identify AIS and to prevent the spread of AIS from lake to lake. Inspectors also inform people where to get their boats decontaminated and about state laws designed to prevent AIS spread.

In other news, the Leech Lake Watershed Foundation is seeking accreditation as a trust fund for conservation easements from Land Trust Accreditation Commission in Saratoga Springs, N.Y.

Tuesday, the Cass County Board approved sending a letter of support for this accreditation.

Having accreditation gives Leech Lake Watershed Foundation more authority to enforce terms of conservation easements after they have been designated, according to John Sumption, who represented the foundation at Tuesday's meeting. It also will qualify the foundation for more conservation easement money in the future, Sumption said.

He also noted because the foundation is seeking this accreditation, Leech Lake Watershed Foundation is changing its name to Northern Waters Lake Trust.