Statewide AIS committee upbeat after 2013 report
By Jeff Forester
STATEWIDE AQUATIC INVASIVE SPECIES ADVISORY COMMITTEE
The statewide committee, made up of citizens from many geographic regions of Minnesota and diverse backgrounds in the sciences, public policy, land management and water related businesses find reasons to be hopeful in fight against zebra Mussels and of invasive species.
The Minnesota Statewide Aquatic Invasive Species (AIS) Advisory Committee released its Annual Report for 2013. The Committee, after a year of study, discussion and research, is upbeat, noting that “other areas with as many lakes and even greater variations in topography have been successful,” in controlling the spread of zebra mussels and other AIS, said Jeff Forester, Executive Director of Minnesota Lakes and Rivers Advocates.
A member of the committee said, “There is a lot of misinformation and misperceptions out there about aquatic invasive species. One of the first tasks we undertook was to review these ideas and see if there was any basis for them.”
The report goes on to state, “To those that say we cannot be successful stopping the spread of AIS, we, the members of the Statewide AIS Advisory Committee... unanimously disagree. Minnesota not only can be successful, we must be successful if we are to continue to have a way of life and economy based upon healthy and vibrant water ecosystems.
The report goes on to dispel other AIS myths. “We found no evidence that birds transport zebra mussels,” said Forester. The Statewide AIS Advisory Committee also saw opportunities for funding sources due to the high level of boat owners in the State and stressed the opportunity to involve water related businesses like marinas, bait shops, and local governments in the work. The report does not offer a “silver bullet” solution, but recognizes that a comprehensive statewide AIS plan will involve a set of many tools, and strong partners between a variety of groups, government agencies and local communities. The 2014 AIS Annual Report states, “... there opportunities to involve the private sector, an army of volunteers , and well-developed organizations that add considerable savings. The wealth that Minnesota’s lakes and rivers generate justifies considerable investment in their protection.”
“For instance, the Department of Transportation can be involved with border protection at ports of entry to Minnesota or key roadside rest areas,” said Forester. Members of the committee have been in discussions with boat manufacturers and associations to design boats that are more resistant to AIS transport and easier to decontaminate should they become infested.
The Committee recognized that the DNR cannot do this job alone, but needs support not only from the community, but from the Legislature and Governor Dayton. A legislative subcommittee of the Statewide AIS Advisory Committee sent letters to the Minnesota Legislature urging them to provide one time funding to help local communities with infrastructure needs like decontamination stations, but also a reliable and ongoing source of funding for AIS related activities. There is also a need for a stronger legislation to serve as a framework for a successful AIS program.
Robert Olson, President of the Statewide AIS Advisory Committee wrote, “The challenge for the committee members in this next year will be to bring forward ideas and recommendations to the DNR that will provide the sustainable funding needed to battle these invaders, to review current policies and practices to insure that they are efficient and effective and to improve upon them where possible.”
In 2012 DNR Commissioner Tom Landwehr appointed the AIS Advisory Committee to help the DNR maintain strong relationships with AIS stakeholders.
The advice and recommendations from the 15-member committee, and four ex-officio members, will be used to help guide the DNR’s activities. Committee members have brought a wide range of personal and professional experience to the discussion about how to prevent the spread of invasive plants and animals in our lakes, rivers and wetlands.