DNR panel to advise on invasive species

Zebra mussel, native snail
Bob Gilsdorf, 76, holds a rock with a zebra mussel on the left and a native snail on the right on the dock of his Pelican Lake home in a July 2012 file photo. According to the Department of Natural Resources, zebra mussels are infesting lakes around Minnesota, including Pelican and seven other lakes and one river in Otter Tail County alone.
Ann Arbor Miller for MPR

The Department of Natural Resources has set up a 15-member committee to provide advice as the agency ramps up its fight against aquatic invasive species like Asian carp and zebra mussels.

Members represent local governments, conservation groups and lakeshore owners.

One appointee, Gary Botzek, who directs the Minnesota Conservation Federation, predicted the Legislature will ask tough questions about how well the DNR's inspection and enforcement program is working.

"The percentages I see are awful low: 25 percent or 30 percent compliance," Botzek said. "We need do better than that, because if you let one boat get through with aquatic invasive species, you can infect another lake, and that's exactly what's happening with plants and zebra mussels and all of its cousins."

Botzek said the committee should come up with recommendations for more money and perhaps new laws to deal with the influx of aquatic invaders, both plant and animal species.

He added that the state should encourage local governments and volunteer groups to join the fight.

"They do rally around their lake associations," he said, "so we need to give them more weapons, we may need to find more money for them."

Botzek says he will push for a higher surcharge on boat registrations and other new funding during the coming legislative session.

• Follow Stephanie Hemphill on Twitter: http://www.twitter.com/mpr_hemphill

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