By Dean Urdahl
If you boat, fish or spend time on one of Minnesota’s lakes you probably know the effects of invasive plant species. Water recreation is one of our biggest attractions and we always need to improve our maintenance and protection of lakes to preserve our natural resources.
Last week I introduced a bill in the Minnesota House to create an Aquatic Invasive Species Fund to fund efforts to prevent the spread of invasive plant and animal species into uninfested waters and manage waters already contaminated. My bill raises approximately $5-6 million for the fund by selling a $10 decal that will be required for all watercraft used in public waters.
A look at some of our local lakes shows why this is necessary. The DNR lists Stella Lake, Lake Washington and Lake Ripley – all in Meeker County – as infested with Eurasian watermilfiol. Wright County has too many infested lakes to list in this space. This is not just a local problem. More than 160 lakes in Minnesota are infested with milfoil; 2,200 lakes contain purple lossestrife; 702 lakes contain curly-leaf pondweed; and flowering rush infests 16 lakes statewide. And these are just plant species. Animal species such as zebra mussel and Asian carp are here or in danger of coming here. We do not want that to happen.
Aside from making lakes just plain ugly to look at, invasive species threaten the heart of outdoor recreation. Invasive species do not occur naturally in the local environment and therefore upset the delicate ecological balance built and nurtured over thousands of years. There is an economic impact as well. Imagine what would happen to local economies if our lakes become so infested that people no longer want to come here. As bad as that would be here, imagine how bad it would be further north where people’s livelihood depends on the tourism industry.
Good work is already being done by the DNR and concerned Minnesotans. The DNR monitors lakes, rivers and streams for the progress of invasive species and has increased its inspection rates for boats and trailers. The first line of defense against invasive species is us. We have become very good at checking our boats, jet skies, canoes and trailers for any plants or animals that cling to them when we take them out of the water. By removing any hitchhikers and making sure our equipment is always clean we are slowing down the spread of invasive plants and animals.
My bill will provide the DNR with the money it needs to improve its invasive species prevention efforts. I believe it the Aquatic Invasive Species Fund is a good tool that will help preserve our rich tradition of being a natural resources leader. For more information about invasive species and how to prevent them, visit the DNR website at www.dnr.state.mn.us.