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Efforts to fight invasives are ongoing

Aquatic invasive species, or AIS, continue to threaten Minnesota lakes, and more and more people are getting in on the fight.

The state, along with counties and localized groups, are working both separately and together on efforts to stop the spread of invasives, such as zebra mussels.

Minnesota has been battling the spread of invasives for years, yet more new lakes and waterways continue to be identified as infested. The focus of efforts has been on education and awareness-raising promotional efforts.

DNR provides state leadership on invasives

The Minnesota Department of Natural Resources has added more than 200 “clean-and-drain” areas to statewide public water access sites.

The special areas act as visual reminders to boaters to clean and drain their boats properly and provide safe and convenient places to do so.

Minnesota is the first state in the nation to implement this type of modification at multiple water access sites. This is part of DNR’s ongoing efforts to prevent the spread of aquatic invasive species.

“Everyone who has a boat on a trailer has the responsibility to prevent the spread of invasive species,” said Otter Tail County Board Chairman Doug Huebsch of Perham.

Otter Tail County watercraft inspectors help fight AIS

Four watercraft inspectors are at work in Otter Tail County this summer to help stop the spread of aquatic invasive species.

“The inspectors received their training and they’ve started inspecting at the DNR public accesses,” Otter Tail County Land and Resource Director Bill Kalar said at a recent county board meeting. “Even though the season just started, it appears that things are going well.”

The four inspectors this year are Matthew Boese, David Eckhardt, Alec Larson and William Rollie.

Lake associations have joined with county government in doing everything they can to stop the spread of invasives. The county board and county departments work closely with the Otter Tail County Coalition of Lake Associations.

Zebra mussels, one of the most common invasive species found in west central Minnesota, are relatively small, with adults ranging from 0.25 to 1.5 inches long. They have tiny stripes down their D-shaped shells. They attach to boat lifts and other objects, and crowd out native mussels and larval fish by fighting for food.

‘Train the Teachers to Train Kids’

Jerry Horgan, a retired school administrator who lives on West Battle Lake, is a member of Otter Tail County’s Aquatic Invasive Species Task Force. He coordinates teacher training so that instructors, in turn, can inform students about the danger of invasive species.

“Train the Teachers to Train Kids” is a program that includes 11 area school districts.

The task force itself also works directly with students. An example is an event that took place May 28, in coordination with Underwood Public Schools. Forty students headed out, on pontoons, to an area lake infested with aquatic invasive species. Mariya Rufer, a biologist who works with RMB Labs in Detroit Lakes, accompanied the students.

“The kids were able to look over the sides of the pontoons and actually see zebra mussels,” said Horgan. “Mariya informed the students about how aquatic invasive species arrived in Minnesota from different parts of the world.”

Curriculum is developed that meets Minnesota standards and is given free to area school districts.

“Our purpose,” said Horgan, “is to develop ideas and formats where kids can train other kids on issues of aquatic species prevention. All of us need to take ownership of our lakes here in Otter Tail County.”