COLA Column: DNR AIS advisory committee key stakeholder in AIS prevention

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The statewide fight to prevent the spread of aquatic invasive species (AIS) to Minnesota lakes is taking place at many levels.

The Minnesota DNR is the leader, but many other organizations are partners. The Minnesota Aquatic Invasive Species Research Center (MAISRC), county governments, lake association groups (COLAs), lake associations, township/city governments, civic organizations, fishing groups, and thousands of citizen volunteers are stakeholder partners in the success of the prevention efforts.

One group that is not as visible as a partner is the DNR's State AIS Advisory Committee (SAISAC). SAISAC has played a key role in helping formulate both the DNR and statewide initiatives on AIS prevention. The committee was formed by DNR Commissioner Landwehr to advise the DNR on its programs. It was created in 2012 in response to the growing AIS threat to Minnesota's water resources.

The 16-member committee and five ex-officio members represent a broad spectrum of expertise and stakeholder groups. The five ex-officio members provide expertise from Explore Minnesota Tourism, Minnesota Tribes, U.S. Fish and wildlife Service, Minnesota Sea Grant Program and the MAISRC. The 16 committee members that are appointed for three-year terms represent a cross section of county commissioners, lake association leaders, county AIS coordinators, county environmental service administrators, lake service providers, angler groups, marine dealers, and resort owners. A list of the members can be found on the DNR website.

The committee meets with DNR Staff eight times a year to discuss AIS program activities, budgets, legislation, research, and program management. The committee makes recommendations to the DNR on program improvements, strategic direction, and ways to address emerging AIS issues.

The wide diversity of the members brings a broad perspective on AIS issues at a national and state level as well as AIS prevention experiences at a local level. The committee also provides oversight to the county level programs that are funded by the state aid to counties for AIS prevention. The workshops and annual performance of the local programs are reviewed as well as annual reviews of the key DNR AIS programs in the state.

The committee sets annual objectives in four key areas: communications, research, legislative initiatives, and "on-the-ground" strategies.

Over the past five years, the committee has contributed to several key accomplishments on AIS prevention:

• Worked diligently to secure sustainable funding for DNR AIS Programs and the Minnesota AIS Research Center.

• Worked diligently and advocated to secure sustainable funding for local AIS prevention programs. The Senator Rod Skoe initiative to provide state aid to counties for AIS is a model that is admired by other states.

• Committee members have been leaders in working with the American Boat and Yacht Council (ABYC) to develop boat designs that are friendly to preventing the spread of AIS. Many boat manufacturers have already adopted some of the guidelines which are expected to be formally released in 2018.

• Worked through Sea Grant and U.S. Fish and Wildlife representatives to advocate for federal support of AIS prevention activities.

• Aggressively participated in the state response to the discovery of Starry Stonewort when it first appeared in Minnesota.

More information on the committee's initiatives, annual reports, and meeting minutes can be reviewed on the DNR website: www.dnr.state.mn.us/aisadvisory/index.html.

It has been my pleasure to serve on the Advisory Committee since 2012. The committee recognizes Hubbard County as a leader in AIS prevention.

I want to thank all the Hubbard County citizens, stakeholder organizations, county commissioners, and township government leaders that have partnered over the past 10 years to prevent the spread of AIS in our county.