Powering possible through partnerships in Central Minnesota. Watch the video.

Make a Donation

Initiative Foundation Get Logos
Initiative Quarterly Magazine
Initiative Quarterly

Aquatic Invasive Species



Many aquatic invasive species (AIS) are now present in Minnesota, most notably Eurasian watermilfoil, starty stonewort, zebra mussels, and spiny water flea.These invaders threaten the current and future recreational enjoyment of our state’s waters and the economic sustainability of many communities dependent on Minnesota’s $13 billion tourism industry, largely centered on water and its adjacent natural resources. Not only can AIS impede recreation, but they change the ecosystem balance, potentially forever.

The Initiative Foundation has awarded a total of $3.6 million to fund a limited number of pilot projects to prevent the introduction or spread of aquatic invasive species (AIS) into Minnesota waters and to assess the effectiveness of these strategies. Funding for this program was recommended by the Lessard-Sams Outdoor Heritage Council (LSOHC) and approved by the Minnesota Legislature through the Outdoor Heritage Fund, one of four funds established by the 2008 Minnesota Clean Water Land & Legacy constitutional amendment.

The program funded pilot projects anywhere in Minnesota that are legal, effective and financially sustainable methods of preventing the spread of invasive species through a range of education and outreach, inspection and decontamination, enforcement, containment and/or other methods that can be administered locally.

Funded Projects

In June of 2014, the Minnesota Legislature accepted the recommendation of the Lessard-Sams Outdoor Heritage Council (LSOHC) and awarded more than $4 million to the Initiative foundation to:

“…develop a series of pilot projects to enhance aquatic habitat by preventing the spread of aquatic invasive species, including pilot projects conducting education and outreach, inspection and decontamination, enforcement, and other activities.  All pilot projects must be conducted on a reimbursement basis and require a match of non-Outdoor Heritage Fund dollars.  A required evaluation of results must be funded with non-Outdoor Heritage Fund dollars.  The required evaluation must evaluate the efficacy of inspection and decontamination activities utilized in any of the pilot projects in preventing the spread of aquatic invasive species.”

The Initiative Foundation administered the grants.  Since 2014, a total of 19 projects were funded through the Aquatic Invasice Species program (AIS). The name of the project and a short description of the outcomes are each presented below:

  • Boat Bucket Water Project: will partner with up to 20 Aitkin County bait shops and resorts at the start of the 2018 fishing opener. In Minnesota, to transport minnows from one lake to another, state law says anglers should replace the water in their buckets with tap or spring water. Partner bait shops would provide customers with a free gallon of water that can be used to replenish bait buckets when anglers move from one lake to another. Bait customers who use the bags will be offered a $0.50 discount on their next bait purchase, or $1 off an artificial bait purchase at the store. Bait shop owners would receive compensation of $0.50 for every gallon of water they distribute.
  • Boat Traffic Analysis: A Predictive Model: will put metrics in motion to increase watercraft inspection efficiency. By plotting hour-by-hour arrivals and departures on Vermilion and Burntside lakes for an entire boating season, organizers plan to implement a fast and flexible scheduling system that will increase convenience for anglers and tourists while optimizing savings and maximizing the number of watercraft inspections.
  • Carnelian-Marine-St. Croix Watershed District: ambitious project that targeted and reduced the presence of Eurasion Water Milfoil on Big Marine Lake (Washington County) by 50%. 
  • Carver County Water Managment Organization (Carver County): aimed to reduce wait times at AIS inspection areas by establishing a "proof of inspection" tagging system that allowed qualifying outbound boaters an expedited inspection process when leaving Lake Waconia or Minnewashta.
  • Carver County Zebra Mussel Control Project (Waconia and Minnewashta lakes): calls for the removal of floating vegetation, hand-removal of rooted vegetation and the potential use of dock-mounted thrusters to clear floating debris from public water accesses. The object is to decrease by 50 percent the number of watercraft leaving the lake with zebra mussels and other aquatic invaders attached to plant matter. Success will be evaluated by comparing DNR inspection survey data to data collected from previous years.
  • Cass County Environmental Services -- Enhanced Training for AIS Inspectors: This grant built off of the basic training provided by the DNR by supplying additional trainings in conflict resolution, de-escalation techniques and the basic precepts in limnology and ecology of AIS.
  • City Governance Project (Cass & Ramsey counties): aims to increase coordination and collaboration between state/local governments and stakeholder groups. By taking a policy approach through coaching, work plan development and project coordination--and by linking sportsmen/women groups, lake associations, property owners and tourism and fishing professionals--the project goal is to maximize local engagement while providing a model that can be used in other regions of the state.
  • Crow Wing County (on behalf of the Mississippi Headwaters Board) to Media Purchases and Viral Distribution of AIS Education Aimed at Wakeboard Users: supported the marketing and placement of educational AIS videos in the metro area television market to appeal to younger recreationalists and promote AIS preventative measures.
  • Crow River Organization for Water (CROW) Joint Powers Board: targeted younger generations (ages 10 through 25) with education and outreach efforts inteded to internalize the importance of AIS prevention.
  • Lake Country Soil and Water Conservation District: enabled an aggressive trapping campaign in the Boundary Waters Canoe Area targeting rusty crayfish, a resilent species that was initially introduced as bait but now is threatening to wipe out the native crayfish populations and significantly reduce aquatic vegitation populations, including wild rice.
  • Lake Koronis Association (Stearns County) to Manage Starry Stonewort: will provide resources to combat Starry Stonewort growing in Lake Koronis, a microalgae that appears in dense mats which impairs fishery reproduction, chokes native vegitation and impedes recreational activities.
  • Resort Ambassador Program (Cass & Itasca counties and Lake Vermilion area): will work with resort, lodge, campground and marina owners to participate in early detection efforts. A gap exists in AIS detection at private-sector marinas and other boat launching areas. Through training, compensation and participant recognition, it's anticipated that the resort ambassador project will create wider regional networks. The project also will reward private-access inspections, encourage early detection and enhance stewardship--all with the goal of long-term sustainability for Minnesota's tourism and angling industries.
  • Voyageurs National Park/National Park Service for restoration of non-native cattail-dominated wetlands in Voyageurs National Park. Non-native cattails have invaded wetlands in Voyageurs National Park, displacing native vegetation, reducing biodiversity, degrading fish/wildlife habitat, impairing recreational opportunities and degrading cultural resources-- especially wild rice. Non-native cattails will be removed followed by re-establishment of native vegetation to restore wetland communities. 
  • Wildlife Forever and CD3, LLC: a project to assess the impact of deploying a prototype user-operated AIS cleaning station. A prototype user-operated Clean, Drain, Dry and Dispose cleaning system will be placed at selected outstate and metro locations and user behaviors will be monitored and evaluated to assess the effectiveness of user-operated systems. 
  • Wildlife Forever to Support Interactive Educational Outreach in the Vermillion Lake Watershed: Promotes the "Stop, Drain and Dry" AIS prevention campaign's best practices, locations of decontamination or inspection services and other AIS resources.
  • Wright County Soil and Water Conservation District to Prevent the Spread of Zebra Mussels: provides resources to assist with the rollout of a comprehensive AIS management/prevention strategy for Wright County lakes, including Lakes East and West Sylvia, Sugar and Clearwater.

  • Aquatic Invaders Summit: supported a two-day 2015 summit  hosted by the Initiative Foundation that brought together local and tribal governments, communities and their partners to brainstorm and plan together for effective AIS prevention.
  • Aquatic Invaders Summit II:  supported a two-day 2016 summit hosted by the Initiative Foundation and the Minnesota Lakes and Rivers Advocates. More than 300 attendees learned about tried-and-true AIS prevention best practices and listened to AIS success stories.

Clean Water Land & Legacy AmendmentThe Minnesota Clean Water Land & Legacy Amendment is working to restore, protect and enhance Minnesota's wetlands, prairies, forests and habitat for fish, game and wildlife. For more information, visit the Lessard-Sams Outdoor Heritage Council website.

Quick Facts About Minnesota Invasives

Pondweed.jpgCurly-Leaf Pondweed

What is it? Curly-leaf was first noted in Minnesota about 1910. It probably was accidentally introduced when common carp were intentionally brought to Minnesota.

What does it do? Curly-leaf generally grows in 3-10 feet of water. Curly-leaf tolerates low water clarity and will readily invade disturbed areas.

Image Source: Chris Evans, Illinois Wildlife Action Plan, Bugwood.org 


Eurasian Water Milfoil

What is it? Eurasian milfoil was accidentally introduced to North America from Europe. It reached Midwestern states between the 1950s and 1980s, mostly hitching a ride on boats.

What does it do? It's notorious for its ability to choke water resources.

Image Source: Barry Rice, sarracenia.com, Bugwood.org

Loosestrife.jpgPurple Loosestrife

What is it? Loosestrife was introduced in the 1800s. It was distributed as an ornamental and is now found in 40 states.

What does it do? Loosestrive invades marshes and lakeshores, replacing cattails and other wetland plants.

Image Source: John D. Byrd, Mississippi State University, Bugwood.org


Starry Stonewort

What is it? Starry stonewort are grass-like algae that cannot be found in North America. The first Starry Stonewort plan was discovered in Lake Koronis, near Paynesville, in 2015.

What does it do? Starry stonewort produces dense mats at the water's surface which can interfere with recreational lake use.

Image Source: MN DNR


Zebra Mussel

What is it? A fingernail-sized mussel that attach to solid surfaces. A native of Eastern Europe brought to the Great Lakes in ship ballasts, zebra mussels have been here for more than 20 years.

What does it do? Their presence causes more algae and weed growth and kills native clams.

Image Source: Randy Westbrooks, Invasive Species Prevention Specialist, Bugwood.org

Reading Resources

Title Date Added Description Size Type
AIS Legislative Recap
Jun 16th, 2014 11:46 am This January 2011 report summarizes the recommendations of a stakeholder group and the DNR’s response to the recommendations. 213KB PDF
Aquatic Nuisance Species Update
Jun 16th, 2014 11:51 am A fall/winter 1999 report outlining a quantitative approach to predict potential nonindigenous aquatic plant species problems. 233KB PDF
Buchan-Padilla 2000 report
Jun 16th, 2014 11:54 am A 2000 study predicting the likelihood of eurasian watermilfoil presence in lakes. 422KB PDF
Capers 2007 Report
Nov 16th, 2015 1:58 pm A 2007 study of the aquatic plant community invasability and scale-dependent patterns in native and invasive species richness. 220KB PDF
Comparing population abundance of AIS
Jun 16th, 2014 11:57 am A 2013 study comparing population abundance of invasive and native aquatic species. 291KB PDF
Johnson 2001report
Jun 16th, 2014 11:58 am A 2001 study of overland dispersal of aquatic invasive species: a risk assessment of transient recreational boating. 274KB PDF
Madsen 1999 report
Jun 16th, 2014 12:01 pm A 1999 study predicting the invasion of eurasian watermilfoil into northern lakes. 459KB PDF
Nichols-Buchan 1997 report
Jun 16th, 2014 12:02 pm A 1997 study on the use of native macrophytes as indicators of suitable eurasian watermilfoil habitat in Wisconsin lakes. 66KB PDF
Spear 2013 report
Jun 16th, 2014 12:03 pm A 2013 study of human population density in relation to alien species richness in protected areas. 498KB PDF
Zequanox background paper
Jun 16th, 2014 12:06 pm An in-depth review of the discovery and commercialization of a new, non-chemical alternative for invasive mussel control. 877KB PDF
MInnesota Sea Grants AIS Guide
Aug 4th, 2014 4:01 pm A 2014 guide that provides a menu of strategies from which counties can use to get the most from Minnesota's AIS Prevention Aid dollars. 348KB PDF
Local AIS Action Framework
Nov 13th, 2015 3:46 pm A framework for local collaboration in developing AIS prevention programs and actions. 3955KB PDF
Minnesota DNR Guidance
Nov 13th, 2015 3:46 pm DNR Guidance for Conducting AIS Early Detection and Baseline Monitoring in Lakes 934KB PDF
Invasive Species Report
Nov 13th, 2015 3:46 pm 2014 DNR Annual Report Invasive Species of Minnesota 2148KB PDF