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Aquatic Invasive Species

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Aquatic Invaders: A Threat to Ecosystems, Quality of Life

Many aquatic invasive species (AIS) are now present in Minnesota, most notably Eurasian watermilfoil, starry 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 pilot projects to prevent the introduction or spread of invasive species 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 2014 Minnesota Legislature through the Outdoor Heritage Fund, one of four funds established by the 2008 Minnesota Clean Water Land & Legacy constitutional amendment.

The pilot projects throughout Minnesota 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

Since 2014, a total of 16 projects have been awarded grants through the Initiative Foundation-administered Aquatic Invasice Species (AIS) program. The name of the project and a short description of the outcomes are presented below:

  • Boat Bucket Water Project: Starting in 2018, this project partners with up to 20 Aitkin County bait shops and resorts at the start of the 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: This effort puts 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: This project aims to target and reduce the presence of Eurasion Water Milfoil on Big Marine Lake (Washington County) by 50 percent through an integrated, pest-management treatment program. 
  • Carver County Water Managment Organization (Carver County): This project aims to reduce wait times at AIS inspection sites by establishing a "proof of inspection" tagging system that allows qualifying outbound boaters an expedited inspection process when leaving Lake Waconia or Minnewashta.
  • Carver County Zebra Mussel Control Project (Waconia and Minnewashta lakes): This project 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 is an extension of the basic training provided by the DNR and provides additional training in conflict resolution, de-escalation techniques and the basic precepts in AIS limnology and ecology.
  • City Governance Project (Cass & Ramsey counties): This project 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): This project supports 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: This project targets younger generations (ages 10 through 25) with education and outreach efforts intended to internalize the importance of AIS prevention.
  • Lake Country Soil and Water Conservation District: This project 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 native crayfish populations and significantly reduce aquatic vegitation populations, including wild rice.
  • Lake Koronis Association (Stearns County) to Manage Starry Stonewort: This project provides 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 and Itasca counties and Lake Vermilion area): This project works 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: 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. This project involves the removal of non-native cattails followed by re-establishment of native vegetation to restore wetland communities. 
  • Wildlife Forever and CD3, LLC: A prototype Clean, Drain, Dry and Dispose cleaning system will be placed at select outstate and metro locations. 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: This project 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: Funding 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: Funding 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 

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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

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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

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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