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Initiative Quarterly

Aquatic Invasive Species



Many aquatic invasive species (AIS) are now present in Minnesota, most notably Eurasian watermilfoil, zebra mussels, and spiny water flea. A new nasty invader, starry stonewort, has recently appeared and others are on Minnesota’s doorstep. 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 will award 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 is intended to fund 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.

Final Request for Proposals

A total of $3.6 million will be awarded for pilot AIS prevention projects, including an assesment of their effectiveness. To date, approximately $3 million has been awarded to projects, the remaining funds must be allocated before the end of 2017; new projects may not be accepted after the fall of 2017. 

Local units of government, lakeshore owners, resorts, chambers of commerce and tourism bureaus, angling and sporting groups, water-related businesses and interested citizens are encouraged to form partnerships to craft innovative projects to test new ideas and approaches to stop the spread of AIS.

The first step in the proposal submission process is the completion of an online letter of inquiry (see apply/login tab). To complete the review and allocation process before the end of 2017, a letter of inquiry should be submitted by July 15, 2017. Eligibility applies statewide for local units of government, including joint powers organizations; tribal governments; and registered 501(c) 3 organizations. In crafting a proposal, a 50% local match is required--20% local cash or in-kind and up to 30% from other non-Lessard Sams Outdoor Heritage Council-administered funds including local AIS Aid.

**Eligible applicants are encouraged to discuss their project ideas with Program Manager John Sumption before submitting letters of inquiry. Contact John by email or call (218) 368-8304.

See below for more details on eligibility, desired projects, match requirements and the application process.

Who is eligible to apply?
What types of projects are considered innovative and eligible?
What activities are not eligible?
What are the matching requirements?
What is the application process?
Additional Program Information

Who Is Eligible To Apply?

Eligibility applies statewide for: 

  • Local units of government including joint powers organizations
  • Tribal governments
  • Registered 501(c)(3) nonprofit organizations

Priority will be given to local partnerships that demonstrate the administrative, financial and logistical capacity to effectively implement innovative AIS prevention strategies. Collaboration is encouraged between local governments, lake associations, tourism- and water-related businesses, sporting groups, resorts and other interested organizations.

What Types Of Projects Are Considered Innovative And Eligible?

This program will fund only innovative and comprehensive strategies that accomplish one or more of the following:

  • Reach new audiences
  • Serve new geographic areas
  • Employ existing AIS prevention technologies in new ways
  • Pilot emerging prevention strategies, including containment of current infestations
  • Employ locally enforced experimental regulations on targeted waters
  • Pilot innovative methods of funding, administration, or implementation

Examples of eligible projects include, but are not limited to:

  • Strategies to identify pathway risks and enhance or manage access to and from targeted waters to control AIS.
  • Inspection and decontamination of watercraft and other resource user equipment to limit the spread of AIS to and from targeted waters.
  • Unique and/or new education and outreach approaches to targeted audiences.
  • A cooperative strategy to enhance enforcement of existing AIS laws, enact experimental local regulations, pilot new AIS prevention technologies, test new treatment methods/approaches for containment, or to utilize existing AIS prevention technologies in new ways. 

Read about innovative pilot projects currently funded.  

What Activities Are Not Eligible?

This program cannot fund:

  • Existing AIS prevention programs and/or strategies commonly being employed throughout Minnesota.
  • Existing AIS control projects on infested lakes or rivers unless they are specifically intended to prevent AIS spread to targeted uninfested waters or have a new and innovative approach to treatment. 
  • User fee or tax reduction, replacement of existing revenue streams or other supplanting of government funding.

What Are The Matching Requirements?

The Lessard-Sams Outdoor Heritage Council (LSOHC) in December 2014 approved the following match requirement amendments:

  • Outdoor Heritage funds can pay up to 50 percent of the project costs.
  • A 20 percent local match is required. The local match can include in-kind services or materials and must include the cost of program evaluation. 
  • The remaining 30 percent can be from any source including other state funds with the exclusion of other Outdoor Heritage Fund projects. County AIS Prevention Aid is an eligible match source.

Please note: Capital costs or purchases are not eligible for state funding but may be used as a project-related matching expense.

What Is The Application Process?

Applicants must submit an online letter of inquiry that includes:

  • Sponsoring organization information
  • Description of the targeted waters, recreational pressures and risk of infestation
  • AIS threats of concern
  • Proposed innovative strategies and potential implementation partners
  • Administrative and financial capacity to administer the program
  • Availability of current AIS survey data
  • A summary of local AIS education, monitoring and prevention/control efforts to date

A review committee will score the inquiries and invite a select group to submit full proposals. Before submitting a letter of inquiry, eligible applicants are encouraged to discuss their project ideas with Program Manager John Sumption. Contact John by email or call (218) 368-8304.

Additional Program Information

Selected projects will be required to ...

  • Provide current baseline data on the presence or absence of AIS in the targeted waters. Non-Outdoor Heritage matching funds must be used to complete the assessment.
  • Provide long-term solutions that are based on best available science. Projects will have a two-year implementation window.
  • Establish and conduct a reporting and monitoring program using a customized evaluation plan that will be designed for each project. Non-Outdoor Heritage funds must be used for the evaluation. Monitoring will be required for three to five years.

Complete the online Letter of Inquiry form now.

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.

Submitting Your Letter of Inquiry

Prospective applicants must submit ...
• A list of proposed strategies and potential implementation partners
• Administrative and financial capacity to administer the program, including project budget
• Description of proposed project area, including characterization of surface waters, recreational pressures, and risk of infestation
• Availability of current AIS and fish and wildlife habitat survey data
• A summary of local AIS education, monitoring, and prevention/control efforts to date.

Start Inquiry     Account Login

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Click Start Inquiry to create an account and submit your first inquiry or to start a new inquiry. Click Account Login to return to an existing inquiry/proposal, access application history or submit a grant report. If you're experiencing technical difficulties, send an email to the Initiative Foundation and we'll help you get back on track. Thank you!

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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

Quick Facts About Minnesota Invasives


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


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

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 

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



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 administers the process through this webpage that contains an online application and reporting process. Since 2014, a total of 13 projects have been funded through the Aquatic Invasice Species program (AIS). The name of the project and a short description of the outcomes are each presented below:

  • 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.
  • 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.
  • 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.
  • 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.
  • 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 impede recreational activities.
  • 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.
  • 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. 
  • 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. 
  • 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: The 2016 Aquatic Invaders Summitt II was 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.


Don Hickman

 Don Hickman
Vice President for Community
 Workforce Development
(320) 631-2043

2016 Aquatic Invasive Species Summit

The Oct. 5-6 summit, held at the St. Cloud Rivers Edge Convention Center, built on the success of the 2015 Aquatic Invaders Summit. It provided information on new AIS prevention pilot programs; updates on successful county programs using local AIS aid; emerging technologies and research; opportunities to network with other stakeholders in your region to build successful partnerships; international prevention approaches and more. Attendance for the event exceeded 300 interested professionals and citizens.

2016 Summit Materials

Quick Links

Pilot Project Grant Awards
AIS Research Center
DNR AIS Program
AIS Infested Waters Map
Zebra Mussels (video)
Local AIS Prevention Aid
DNR Watercraft Inspection Program
Aquatic Invasive Species: Above and Below the Waterline