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Let’s not lose our heads about AIS

In 2013 Hubbard County commissioners turned down a request to gate this Potato Lake access in an effort to save funds for access inspections. (Gary Korsgaden / For the Enterprise)

By Gary Korsgaden / For the Enterprise

When the word “crisis” is in the headline, prepare for the Minnesota Legislature to over-react and solve the crisis by passing laws with unintended consequences.

For over 100 years non- native species are slowly transforming our ecosystem. Few know there are 180 lessor known invasive species in the Great Lakes today.

While the focus is on zebra mussels and Eurasian milfoil, the common carp has done more damage to sport fisheries and water quality in this state. Realize that the carp is a bad fish when introduced into our lakes. In some lakes it has just become another resident fish.

We cannot stop the spread of invasive species when an ecosystem can support them. The horse is out of the barn and over time, like the common carp, AIS takes their place in our evolving Minnesota landscape. A misguided fact about this CRISIS or WAR that too many people believe is that restrictions on human activity will put the horse back in the barn.

It is unrealistic to “stop” or “eliminate” the spread of invasive species. The best we expect is control.

It begins with some lake property owners, for years through their lake associations, have tried and failed to keep non-home owners off “their” lakes: Struggling to get government behind them to limit lake access, starting by limiting parking, restricting hours by gating access points.

In the midst of the Invasive Species effort “concerned lake associations” seem to have the ear of our Minnesota Legislature. 

Invasive Species Prevention Coordinators with staff have been hired.

Press releases have been written using words like WAR, CRISIS and it is your responsibility to STOP invasives. They actually believe that inspecting boats with their eyes for zebra mussels, which require a magnifying glass to see, is working.

The senior management at the DNR know they have zero chance of stopping anything. How could anyone honestly deny that millions of migrating birds traveling through are not moving invasives.

It’s hard to control the movement of invasives when nature itself has its own way of spreading and controlling them. Most are unaware that over 90 percent of zebra mussels in the Mississippi River have disappeared, due to natural causes, and the experts can’t agree on the reason why. Ten years later the question remains: What killed them?

In 1990 the state of Ohio Sea Grants Mussel Control Program was put into action. Decontamination stations with access inspectors at boat ramps were found to be ineffective, expensive and were eventually abandoned.

Too many demands made on our DNR are not logical, practical or sustainable.

At this point I can only assume that the DNR is doing exactly what the public wants them to do, protecting the resources of our state.

However, has the increased regulations and restrictions on sportsman helped in any state? The answer is no.

We must get the word out on invasives and tell our legislators to look at a different direction for solutions, not pass more restrictive laws with no proven benefits. Sportsmen need to pull their heads out of the sand and become engaged in the whole process.

Make no mistake, invasives in our ecosystem are a real problem. Our Legislature should look at repealing the invasive laws currently on the books and rewrite them so nothing will limit the pubic to access our resources. It could solidify the support of the sportsman and boating public.