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Don’t give up fight against lake invaders

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(Editor’s note: The following guest editorial is in the form of a letter that Robert E. Olson, chair of the Statewide Aquatic Invasive Species Advisory Committee, wrote to Minnesota Department of Natural Resources Commissioner Tom Landwehr.)

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Dear DNR Commissioner Landwehr:

As the chair of the Statewide Aquatic Invasive Species (AIS) Advisory Committee, I am writing at the request of the full committee to firmly rebut a developing theme in recent news stories and legislative committee debate that Minnesota cannot be successful in stopping the spread of AIS, that statewide infestation of Minnesota’s water by zebra mussels and other aquatic threats is only a matter of time and that increased funding of AIS is futile and unjustified.

We uniformly disagree.

At the March 28, 2013 meeting of the AIS Advisory Committee, representing an array of stakeholders, business interests and academic disciplines, we affirmed that Minnesota can and must stop the spread of AIS and that this work demands ongoing and dedicated funding at sufficient levels to meet the challenge:

  • Past efforts have significantly slowed AIS spread over the last 30 years.
  • While new threats like zebra mussels, spiny water flea and VHS pose unique challenges, and Minnesota’s unique web of watersheds adds a layer of complexity to the work, our review of new technology and developing science based strategies and protocols have convinced us Minnesota can rise to the challenge.
  • Recent surveys by the Environmental Quality Board, Conservation Minnesota and Minnesota Lakes and Rivers Advocates all confirm that protecting Minnesota’s waterways from further spread of AIS has overwhelming public support. Voices of dissent are loud, but they are in the minority and the facts are not on their side.
  • The potential loss of billions in tax base for local communities, tourism and related business revenue, and way of life justify a significant investment.

In order to meet this challenge, Minnesota must provide a framework and dedicated funding to counties, local government units and local organizations so they can expand containment efforts at known infested waters and improve shielding of non-infested waters against current and future AIS threats.

We strongly urge the Legislature to pass and the governor to sign a dedicated and ongoing funding mechanism for AIS that is fair, that increases education of lake users of AIS laws and best management protocols, and supports current and developing AIS containment and shielding efforts across the state.

***

The letter is receiving support from lake groups throughout the state, including the Becker County Coalition of Lake Associations and the Minnesota Coalition of Lake Associations (MN COLA), a statewide citizen network of county lake and river associations, representing the interests of more than 40,000 advocates, organized to protect and improve the waters and shorelands of Minnesota.

— Alexandria Echo Press

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