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Letter to Editor: Clearing the waters about AIS

On Jan. 5, the Minnesota Department of Natural Resources (DNR) held its annual Roundtable. Normally, this features sessions on key topics and programs that have come up in the past year, and they look forward to those areas the DNR plans to focus on in the coming year.

This year's Roundtable was different. This year's focus was on the amazing heritage of public lands available in Minnesota, and how access to these lands is central to our way of life.

Unfortunately, a number of anglers declared that lake associations are only concerned about aquatic invasive species (AIS) because they are trying to shut the public off the lakes. Apparently, a relatively few are being somewhat successful in getting the media to buy this hype. This is absolutely not true, and the board members of the Fish Hook Lake and River Association want to go on record that we fully appreciate Minnesota's heritage of allowing public access to these waters and hope that this continues to be a way of life for generations to come.

Where the frustration stems from is that lake associations are working extremely hard to keep these waters pure and free of AIS and ask that there be mutual respect from all those who use the waters. In fact, Minnesota lake associations are the most effective conservation group in the state. They contribute more money toward resource protection (over $6.25 million) and the most voluntary hours (about 1.25 million hours annually).

At the beginning of 2017, Hubbard County was the only county in the state that was free of AIS. That is no longer true. Now, even Hubbard County has several lakes that are affected. As a result, we are spending even more time and money to combat the impact that AIS has and/or will have on water in the future. The Hubbard County Coalition of Lake Associations (COLA) meets regularly and shares ideas on how we can make and/or keep our water resources the best in the world. Just like all the other lake associations around the state, we are looking for every possible way to keep AIS from contaminating our waters.

We work regularly with the DNR on best methods to achieve this. Some of the efforts will require that those who use our lakes, and move from one lake to another, must follow stricter rules than they have been asked to follow in the past. This is not an attempt to privatize our lakes. This is an essential practice that we must adhere to in the future to keep AIS from spreading. The DNR says the most effective method to halt the spread of AIS is boat launch monitoring and the expectation of all boaters to respectfully play by these new rules. Anything short of this, and this precious resource will never be the same.

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