Sunday, January 9, 2011

Aquatic Invasive Species Opinion Article

The following article is to be published in the Star Tribune in the very near future. The article is written by the President of the Minnesota Seasonal Recreational Property Owners and is supported by Hubbard COLA and other lake organizations (many have signed on at the end of the article).

Contact:  Jeff Forester
E.D. Minnesota Seasonal Recreational Property Owners, MSRPO
Office 952-854-1317, Cell 612-961-6144
Letter - 696 Words

Minnesota’s Lakes are under attack. Aquatic Invasive Species (AIS), such as Eurasian watermilfoil, curlyleaf pondweed, zebra mussels and others, are inexorably advancing, carried from lake to lake on boats and trailers. They clog creeks, choke shallows, foul intakes, slime beaches, destroy native fish and plant ecosystems, and cost tens or hundreds of millions in lost recreation and eroded property values yearly.  Not only is Minnesota losing this war — we are not even fighting.

After Eurasian watermilfoil was first discovered in Lake Minnetonka in 1987, the spread to other lakes was slow. Since 2002, however, milfoil spread has accelerated to about five times the rate observed in Wisconsin. And now a new and far more destructive species has invaded Minnesota.
Last fall zebra mussels were discovered in Gull Lake and Lake Minnetonka, adding them to the list of “superspreader” waters which also includes Mille Lacs, Pelican (Ottertail Co.), Prior Lake, the Alexandria Chain and the Mississippi River. These infested waters host hundreds of thousands of transient boats yearly, any one of which could carry this devastating invasive into a new lake or river. Without action, zebra mussel infestation will be epidemic.
Some say it is too hard to contain AIS, it is not a big problem, or we can’t afford it. These voices have dominated. We disagree.  With adequate will and resources, AIS can be contained. State spending for all AIS efforts, including education and enforcement, hovers at about four million dollars annually, with no coordinated AIS plan between agencies, and no reliable funding. Law enforcement is uncoordinated and inadequately trained in AIS issues. Penalties are woefully lax. A deer poacher, who costs the state little, faces fines in the thousands, loss of gun, loss of vehicle and possible jail time.  But if they transport zebra mussels, which cost potential billions, they face a mere wrist slap.
Across the state, lake associations are spending hundreds of thousands of dollars of private money to manage public waters for the public’s benefit. Paula West, a board director with the Crow Wing Lakes and Rivers Alliance and member of the Mission Lakes Association said, “The Mission Lakes Association in the Brainerd Lakes area has spent over $225,000 to manage curlyleaf pondweed and over $30,000 on Eurasian watermilfoil.” Managing these waters is supposed to be the responsibility of the DNR.  Lake associations are willing to help, but should not bear the burden of AIS management.
State funding, enforcement, penalties and coordination are all inadequate. Minnesota’s lakes, rivers and streams are our heritage – AIS impacts are growing at an alarming rate and are irreversible. Our response thus far has not been appropriate to the crisis..
Models for funding and containing AIS exist. Other states are having success. Minnesota doesn’t lack solutions; we lack commitment.
Happily a tide of public activism and concern is rising. That Minnesotans voted overwhelmingly to raise taxes to “protect, enhance and restore” Minnesota’s waters is a clear indication of strong public commitment. Sportsmen, environmentalists, property owners, public works managers and businesses all have vital self-interest in healthy lakes and rivers. Around this interest, coalitions are forming.
In a Minnesota Seasonal Recreational Property Owners (MSRPO) statewide survey of over 1800 cabin owners, the threat of AIS and water quality emerged as top concerns. Barbara Halbakken Fischburg, a member of the Tri-County AIS Legislative Summit to be held Saturday, January 15, in Detroit Lakes, explained: “At the League of Women Voters candidate forums, the issue of aquatic invasives and the impact on our county’s economy was the no. 2 issue concerning voters - second only to budget topics.”  This year MSRPO, citizens, lake associations, businesses and other groups will be pursuing strong AIS legislation. All who love our lakes should join this chorus. The Land of Ten Thousand Lakes must take a stand and win this war against aquatic invasive species.
Now is the time to urge legislators and Governor Dayton to commit to aggressive AIS containment and mitigation. If we don’t act now, within a few years we will look back and tell our children about a time when it was possible to swim in Minnesota’s lakes without getting tangled in milfoil or lacerated by zebra mussel shells.
Jeff Forester
-Executive Director, Minnesota Seasonal Recreational Property Owners Association
Sally Wakefield
-Executive Director, 1,000 Friends of Minnesota
Dick Osgood
-Executive Director, Lake Minnetonka Association
Curt Leitz
-President, Minnesota Division of the Izaak Walton League
Gregg Thompson
-President, Bush Lake Chapter of the Izaak Walton League
Dan Kittilson
-President Hubbard County Coalition of Lake Associations
Jerry Lerom
-President Association of Cass County Lakes - representing 38 member lake associations county wide.
Terry W. Frazee
-Executive Secretary Green Lake Property Owners Association
Bonnie Huettl
-President Douglas County Lakes Association - representing 26 area lakes and over 3000 owners.
Carl Towley
-President Lake Darling Area Association 250 families
Ted Johnson
-President of the Lake Washburn Association
Phyllis Mead
-Pequaywan Lake Association
Howard Hansen
-President Lake Detroiters Association
Paula West
-board director with Crow Wing Lakes and Rivers Alliance and Mission Lakes Association.
Dave Zentnor, Ron Schneider, Ruth ASchaefer, Bonnie Nelson, Greg Roverud and Ann Latham
- Kandiyohi County Middle Forks AIS Committee
Dick Sternberg
-Consulting fisheries biologist and outdoors author
Dick Hecock
Bonnie Nelson

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