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DL residents tapped to be on statewide AIS committee

Two local residents have been appointed to a new statewide Aquatic Invasive Species Advisory Committee by Commissioner Tom Landwehr of the Minnesota Department of Natural Resources.

Tera Guetter and Barb Halbakken Fischburg, both of Detroit Lakes, were among the 15 members who were appointed to serve 3-year terms on the new committee.

Guetter, who is the administrator of the Pelican River Watershed District, said the committee was an outgrowth of a series of meetings that the DNR has held around the state with concerned citizens and organizations who are considered "stakeholders" in the fight to prevent the spread of AIS into Minnesota's lakes, rivers and wetlands.

"These meetings were typically focused in two main areas -- prevention, or management," Guetter said, noting that Halbakken Fischburg's focus was more on the prevention side, while her expertise is in AIS management.

The DNR's intent in creating the committee, she added, was to bring together people with expertise in both areas, and "hone it down to a more manageable group."

Though neither Guetter nor Halbakken Fischburg knows quite what the committee's work will entail -- their first official meeting is not until Jan. 24 in St. Cloud -- they both have some ideas on where they think the group's efforts might be best directed.

"The hope is that there will be a more comprehensive plan put into place for the state to prevent the further spread of existing aquatic invasives in our state, and prevent some of the newer invasives -- ones that aren't here yet -- from coming in," said Halbakken Fischburg.

"Our water resources are so important in this state," she added.

In the past, Minnesota -- known as 'The Land of 10,000 Lakes' -- has not been quite as focused on water protection as other states, because water has always been something that's available in abundance here.

"But we have to begin being more conscientious about how we use our water, how we protect our water, because in many ways, it's our livelihood," Halbakken Fischburg continued.

"We depend on it for so many things ... and if we don't protect that resource now, it may be too late. We may only have a short window of opportunity, and we need to act now."

A 'wait and see' attitude could be dangerous in this instance, she added, because once aquatic invasives are present in an ecosystem, it becomes increasingly difficult -- if not impossible -- to remove them.

Guetter agreed, noting that recent efforts to eradicate zebra mussels from Rose Lake in Becker County and Lake Irene in Douglas County have proved to be less than successful.

She also discussed a recent study touting the effectiveness of the biopesticide Zequanox in stopping the spread of zebra mussels.

While the study done on Deep Quarry Lake in DuPage County, Ill., showed that Zequanox was 97 percent effective in killing the mussels, Guetter said, what it didn't show was that even a 97 percent effective solution may not be enough.

"It only takes a few (zebra mussels) to start an infestation," she said.

Guetter also noted that while aquatic invasives are an issue that affects the entire state, preventing their spread is particularly critical in Becker, Otter Tail and surrounding counties, "where we have numerous lakes and rivers."

"Our lakes and rivers are very valuable to our economic viability," Guetter added, "and it's very important for us to protect that. But that also means we have greater challenges -- and more to lose -- than in other parts of the state."

Guetter said that her goal in getting involved with this new AIS committee would be "to bring a local perspective to the discussion on these issues."