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Commentary: AIS prevention needs to be team effort

Hubbard County COLA continues to "haul the water" as far Aquatic Invasive Species awareness and enforcement of the laws currently on the books. While they work tirelessly still a number of questions remain.

Can lake groups, county and township agencies continue the responsibility of funding the rising cost of lake access inspectors? Does Hubbard COLA really feel access inspectors are the long-term solution to preventing Aquatic Invasive Species into our lakes and rivers and in the process alienating those whose support is desperately needed? Mr. Ken Grob has stated that "leaving Minnesota COLA is not a big deal." It really is. The effort to stop and slow the spread of Aquatic Invasive Species needs to be a statewide "team" effort in order to be even more successful in all the rivers and lakes of the State of Minnesota. The individual personality differences and disagreements that caused the resignation of the Hubbard COLA group needs to be put aside. Instead, as a outsider, it looks like the Hubbard County COLA group thinks they can do a better job on their own without working with other groups such as Minnesota COLA.

The effort to stop or slow AIS is a ongoing process, currently without a treatment, there is no a end in site. Before the Hubbard County COLA pounds their chest on their success, consider this. Hubbard County COLA was fortunate to get ahead of AIS. Why? Because some of the higher traffic lakes in Pelican Rapids, Brainerd and Alexandria lakes areas were confirmed to have it first.

Let's remember that AIS is not just zebra mussels. Here in Hubbard County it seems to be the overwhelming emphasis. What about curly pond weed, milfoil or hydrila? These are just a few that threathen the waters of Hubbard County.

Anglers and bait dealers need to have their concerns heard and understood, with good solid representation. Bait dealers have a deep rooted concern that their ability to make a living is dying a slow death at the hands of the many new laws and restrictions on the books. At a lake association meeting I attended last summer, a lake access inspector got up and shared that citizens who live off the lake several miles or so are the main AIS law violators, and the lakeshore owners in attendance nodded their heads in approval. He went on to say that lakeshore owners are that ones that care about our lakes and all others take the resource for granted. I strongly disagreed with the inspector and called for better communication with angler and boating groups by attending their league events and tournaments, not to police them but instead ask for their input. No one offered a response or comment either pro or con.

The waters of our county and state are public. Hubbard County COLA and its members need to always realize all the usages of the county and the state waters and the need to accommodate and understand how the laws impacts us all not just those who have property on the lake.

"We work well with Minnesota COLA and a number of other lake groups. They come to us and we go to them for advice and direction all the time," stated Scott Brewer, President of FM Walleyes, one of the largest fishing organizations in the country, based in the Fargo-Moorhead area. The organization holds a major walleye tournament on Pelican Lake, a body water confirmed to have zebra mussels. Additionally, Lake Lizzie, is another lake infected with zebra mussels and is a frequented lake by the club's members. Brewer goes on to say, "Our members know firsthand how to prevent further spread of AIS. They bleach, drain and dry their bait and water containers. Members practice it and are models for others to follow."

At the NPAA (National Professional Anglers Association) annual meeting, held recently in the Twin Cities, a concern by some of the top anglers in the country is that lake and river access could be at jeopardy at the hands of "radical" groups. There are already county and city access restrictions and closure in Southeast Minnesota and in the Detroit Lakes area. Additionally, tournaments could be in jeopardy. The importance for the "highly" visible traveling anglers to set an example for others to follow is increasing.

Some may feel we have one of these "radical groups" here in Hubbard County. In their defense, the lake groups under Hubbard County COLA do a lot of good things and we should not lose sight of this.

However, the recent questioning of the planning commission appointments by Hubbard County COLA could be viewed as a move for the group to postpone any decisions until their "favored representatives" are seated on the board. To a lot of county residents it is viewed as a radical move on the Hubbard COLA's part. While Mr. Dan Kittelsen, Hubbard County COLA President, claims we just want to work with everyone, it's time for Hubbard COLA to step up that effort. It wasn't until a recent article in the Enterprise that members learned of the resignation of Hubbard County COLA from Minnesota COLA.

If Hubbard County COLA continues down the path they currently seem to follow the effectiveness of the group could be severely compromised at a time when the waters of Hubbard County and Minnesota needs them the most.