GRAND MARAIS, MN ---- March 19, 2011 --- Governor Mark Dayton joined Minnesota Department of Natural Resources (DNR) Commissioner Tom Landwehr, legislators, and aquatic invasive species stakeholders from around the state. Landwehr unveiled a new legislative initiative that would help slow the spread of aquatic invasives, such as zebra mussels and Eurasian watermilfoil, by redoubling the state’s efforts to combat the spread of these species in Minnesota lakes and rivers.
“Tourism and outdoor recreation on our state’s many lakes and streams is a vital part of our economy,” added Governor Dayton. “We have 2 million anglers, spending more than $3 billion
a year on everything from gear to gas. Anything that might damage our rich natural habitat and the recreational opportunities that make Minnesota unique is a very serious concern.”
The bill, sponsored by Sen. Tom Saxhaug and Rep. John Ward, would authorize the DNR to provide more thorough watercraft inspections and enforcement, to increase penalties for violations, and to require training and permitting for lake service providers. Also, it would streamline the process of obtaining permits for large-scale control of invasive aquatic plants.
“The attack of aquatic invasive species is one of the most critical problems now threatening our natural resources and our way of life,” said Governor Dayton. “We urgently need an immediate bipartisan commitment and the necessary funding to stop this invasion before it’s too late.”
Invasive aquatics, including such species as zebra mussels, Eurasian watermilfoil and spiny waterfleas, have been discovered in more than 1,000 lakes and rivers around the state. They can affect water quality and navigation, destroy fish habitat, drive out important native species, impede beach access, and ultimately damage the state’s water-based recreation and tourism economy.
“Fundamentally, this bill is about making individuals aware of their responsibilities,” said Landwehr. “Boat owners, recreationists and lake service providers will have to meet a higher standard that ensures they drain livewells, wash hulls, and take other precautions or incur penalties.”
The idea for the bill came about following a series of stakeholder meetings held by the DNR in 2010 and 2011. The meetings informed a February presentation to the Legislature outlining key areas of concern and recommendations for tackling the problem.
The DNR is already heavily focused on slowing the spread of aquatic invasives, however the bill gives the department additional tools and authorities. The DNR also will need increased funding for this work, which is included in the Governor’s budget.
To review the proposed bill and for more information, go to www.mndnr.gov