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MN Groups Press for More Detailed Plan to Fight Aquatic Invaders

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Wednesday, September 15, 2021   

ST. PAUL, Minn. - Minnesota continues to battle aquatic invasive species in certain lakes. As the state fights these threats, there are calls for the Department of Natural Resources to develop a more robust management plan.

The state's overall blueprint for combating zebra mussels and other habitat-disrupting pests was written in 2009. DNR leaders have said they're putting a new plan together, with invasive species detected in more waterways this summer.

Jeff Forester, executive director of Minnesota Lakes and Rivers Advocates, said he hopes it's a comprehensive strategy, with better coordination of on-the-ground efforts.

"Nobody really knows what anybody else is doing, and it's not targeted toward specific and achievable goals. It's not coordinated," Forester said of the current plan.

He said the DNR should guide detailed collaboration between lake associations, county governments and others doing prevention work. The DNR has anticipated a new plan over the next year, and said it will include such information as the impact of climate change.

A bill in this year's Legislature called for a new management plan every five years. Ann Pierce, the DNR's deputy director of ecological and water resources, said that kind of timeline would require more federal reviews, potentially delaying prevention funding from Congress.

"Having to have the federal government have to review it, which takes time - sometimes up to a year - it's going to put kind of a roadblock in some of that annual granting process," she said.

However, Minnesota Lakes and Rivers has contended that those issues shouldn't be connected. It noted that the federal grants are a narrow scope in combating aquatic invasive species, and thinks the state should focus on its own plan. The bill's sponsor said there's room for compromise, but will keep pressing for urgency.

Carroll Schaal, lakes and rivers section chief for the Wisconsin DNR, which last updated its management plan in 2019, acknowledged that it was a big undertaking, and federal involvement was only one part of the approach.

"[The] federal money at stake isn't that significant," he said. "I mean, we're very appreciative of it. But you know, we're able to, with our own resources, adjust to the current conditions."

On the Minnesota side, the DNR said its planning doesn't prevent making an alteration if a crisis prompts one. But it insists required updates aren't optimal in carrying out a broader plan.

Disclosure: Minnesota Lakes and Rivers Advocates contributes to our fund for reporting on Climate Change/Air Quality, Public Lands/Wilderness, Sustainable Agriculture, Water. If you would like to help support news in the public interest, click here.


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