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Commentary: Summit bringing together AIS experts to protect Minnesota's natural resources

Hubbard County could be the poster county for taking smart, preventive measures against the spread of aquatic invasive species (AIS) in its destination lakes. Since the 1990s the Hubbard Coalition of Lake Associations and Hubbard County Commissioners have been working together to fund and implement an aggressive AIS prevention plan. A broad cross-sector base of citizens and local government resource managers worked in an AIS Task Force to guide funding priorities, and get inspection, decontamination and communication out on the ground. ​

Through an informed and highly active local government and the physical and financial efforts of private citizens, including its lake associations, the county has, for the most part, succeeded in managing its water resources beautifully, while other destination lakes not that far away, like Lake Mille Lacs, have deteriorated with zebra mussels, Spiny waterflea and other AIS to the point of collapsing the fishing and resort industry in the area.

Such proactive measures are their own reward. But there are, as they say, "valued-added" benefits, including maintaining and raising lakeshore property values as Hubbard County has done. The ramifications of that are many. And many of them will be discussed in earnest during the two-day third annual Aquatic Invaders Summit III, being held this year at the Earl Brown Heritage Center in the Twin Cities Feb. 28 from March 1.

The event, featuring an array of scientists, academic experts, government leaders, resort owners, anglers, innovators and others in the AIS battle, is open to the public. And for the first time, those that can't attend in person can attend remotely online by streaming the summit. On the final day of the event, Minnesota Public Radio with host Chris Farrell will hold a town-hall style forum focusing on the issues facing lakes and rivers, beginning with the threat of aquatic invasive species. It will be recorded and broadcast later statewide, discussing the issues that impact all Minnesotans and the state's many visitors who contribute annually to our $12-plus billion tourism industry.

It's going to be a lively coming together to see what the latest research is, how best practices and real life case studies about invasives will shape our thinking, policy making local actions on lakes in counties all across the land of 10,000 lakes.

Here's just a brief look at the many topics on the agenda:

• A broad discussion on climate impacts and AIS, with a keynote and panel discussion led by former WCCO-TV news anchor and investigative reporter Don Shelby.

• A breakout session called "Carpeggedeon" that explores the experimental use of native pathogens to kill carp, and perhaps one day, zebras mussels.

• It will take a hard look at the significant impacts that the state's 500-plus lake associations — like the model one here in Hubbard — have had and other collaborative models to combat AIS.

• The impacts of AIS on walleye fisheries and the role of anglers to control the spread of AIS.

• A first-time legal panel discussing jurisdictional issues from the federal level to the county level.

• University of Minnesota professor and founder and former director of the University of Minnesota's Aquatic Invasive Species Research Center, Dr. Peter Sorensen, will address the issue, should Minnesota establish freshwater conservation areas to protect lakes for the future?

• Brent Grewe, MN DNR Enforcement Division, will talk about tangible enforcement benefits and illustrate how trained zebra mussel-sniffing dogs have become part of the DNR's enforcement regimen. (For a complete schedule of Breakout Sessions to date, visit

Water" target="_blank">aissummit3.mnlakesandrivers.org.)

Water

is Minnesota's greatest natural asset. And it provides a deep foundation of our state identity and brand. It's critical to life. Finally, it is the fundamental legacy we will leave future generations who will live in a world of increasing water insecurity.

AIS threaten the quality of these legacy resources and the rewards of prudent natural resource management practices, whether you're a Hubbard County angler with lakeshore property or a Stearns County government official concerned about the serious outbreaks of Starry Stonewort on Lake Koronis since 2016. I hope you can join us in person or online.

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