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BELTRAMI COUNTY BOARD: Lake Bemidji at high-risk for mussel infestation, study says

BEMIDJI—Lake Bemidji holds one of the highest risk levels for zebra mussel infestation out of studied lakes in Beltrami County, according to a report presented Tuesday to the County Board of Commissioners.

Researcher Moriya Rufer, of RMB Environmental Laboratories in Detroit Lakes, said Lake Bemidji's high level of use, connections to upstream lakes and ideal mussel habitat all combined to make it a high-risk lake for infestation.

Based on the results, Rufer recommended early detection monitoring in the summer months for both juvenile and adult zebra mussels on Lake Bemidji, Gull Lake, Kitchi Lake, Upper Red Lake and Lake Andrusia. She also suggested extra education and outreach in the summer, particularly Fourth of July week. She urged the county to get as many regular citizens engaged in prevention as possible.

"Involving citizens in that monitoring is crucial, because they're the people that are looking at that lake every day, and they don't cost anything," she said.

Open houses on AIS prevention are being planned, with more details to follow.

Board hears update on long-eared bat situation

Earlier in April, the U.S. Fish and Wildlife Service announced the northern long-eared bat would be officially listed as a threatened species, which includes restrictions on "taking"-- killing, harming or harassing—the bats. Bat populations are under threat from white nose syndrome, a highly contagious fungal disease.

Beltrami County Natural Resource Management Director Richard Moore said—at the time the listing was announced—that potential negative impacts on county and private logging operations appeared to be "minimal." He said he was unaware of any northern long-eared populations within Beltrami County.

On Tuesday, Moore told the board the listing is not likely to affect county's timber sales, but it was difficult to predict what would happen with much certainty.

The county can do tree harvests as long as they're not within a quarter mile of known habitats or roost trees, Moore said.

However, since the animals take advantage of natural hiding spots on the trees, the roost sites are difficult to spot even with electronic trackers, Moore said.

"Unless someone tells us where these are, we're not really going to be able to know," he said.

The county checks with a database of known bat roosts before selling timber from a particular spot, Moore said.

Commissioner Jim Lucachick decried the listing as unnecessarily burdensome to industry. "This is just another example of that ... environmentalist control over the rest of our society," he said. "When I saw this one, I really thought it was a joke. I thought it was April Fool's. The white nose syndrome of the long-eared bat ... the whole title even sounded ridiculous."

Moore's department manages about 150,000 acres of tax-forfeited and county-owned land in Beltrami County, and the lumber on roughly 23,000 acres each year is offered up for sale.