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Political debate brewing over AIS issues

An interesting political battle could be brewing this legislative session.

How does "lakes country" encourage tourism but still keep aquatic invasive species at bay?

Should infected lakes be quarantined?

Is it realistic to implement a broad-based federal or state policy that will keep all nonnative species out of our lands and waters on the assumption they're all harmful?

Is it realistic to believe we can control the spread on public and private lands?

Is this beginning to sound like our immigration policy?

Hubbard County's Coalition of Lake Associations mulled these and other suggestions last week when a clean lakes lobbyist laid out his game plan for the future.

Concerned lakeshore property owners have been presenting a militant and some would say elitist or xenophobic front in the war over AIS. Infect our lakes and you will pay.

Several suggestions were offered at last week's meeting. Can a permit system with accelerated fee structures be implemented to boat owners, the lowest fee for boats that stay on one lake; the highest fee imposed for boat owners who move throughout the state?

How about a competency exam to get a Minnesota fishing license, one that would test your ability to understand why transporting a shopping cart full of zebra mussels is verboten?

Should lake associations and counties shoulder the burden and financial obligation of what is becoming a statewide nightmare? Or will a single bureaucracy be the answer?

Certainly Hubbard County made great strides this summer patrolling heavily used public access points. But was it enough?

Maybe we need to narrow the focus, to hone in on the truly destructive pests that can cause irreparable economic harm.

A county AIS coordinator makes sense. Commissioners should be encouraged to fund the new position. We can't afford not to fund it.

But somewhere our educational efforts have to change our mindset.

Will zebra mussels that devour algae and tainted runoff actually clean up our waters? How about plant species that absorb nitrogen and phosphorus? Can that be all bad?

A united front needs to incorporate education and research.

There's much to be said for using Legacy funds and increasing state budget funds for AIS research and education.

We need to protect the property and waters we have now, not keep acquiring more.

We need to keep our public access points open while enforcing the notion that their use comes with certain responsibilities.

Tourism carries a price.

-- Park Rapids Enterprise