A few summers ago, I worked as an Aquatic Invasive Species (AIS) Watercraft Inspector. Through my work, I learned a lot about the attitudes of Minnesotans toward invasive species and how they spread. My job was to inspect boats and trailers for things like zebra mussels, Eurasian watermilfoil, and curly leaf pondweed and to remind folks to clean, drain, dry. This provided me a lot of opportunities to get to know people and talk to them about their concerns and to educate them on the facts about invasive species: how they spread, where they come from, and what impacts they have on our native landscapes. Some folks were champions at cleaning their boats and others weren’t too happy I was there nosing around. Some folks were willing to talk and learn and others weren’t so eager. Unfortunately for Minnesota and our lakes, not everyone is on board to help stop the spread of invasive species and all it takes is one bad egg to spoil an entire lake. This is why it’s so important for Minnesotans to have the tools necessary to combat the spread of invasive species.
Aquatic and terrestrial invasive species threaten our Minnesota way of life by creating barriers for us to enjoy the Great Outdoors. Eurasian watermilfoil can take over lakes in just a few years making recreational boating nearly impossible if left unchecked. Zebra mussels can litter beaches with small sharp shells ruining a relaxing day in the sand. Emerald ash borer (EAB) has the potential to kill all of our ash trees in Minnesota. EAB will continue to impact home owners, commercial property, state parks, and healthy forests across the state. These species are very real threats to outdoor recreation, tourism, and property values throughout the state.
Here at Conservation Minnesota, our members have shared that they feel overwhelmed by the spread of invasive species. From buckthorn to spiny water fleas, there always seems to be a new threat. The good news is that only a fraction of our lakes and rivers are infested by AIS. One statistic I like to remember is that only 5% of our 11,842 lakes are on the DNR’s Infested Waters list. As for terrestrial invasive species; once a month during the summer, Conservation Minnesota partners with Dakota County Parks and Wilderness in the City to promote and participate in volunteer opportunities to help eradicate invasive species like Japanese hedge parsley and garlic mustard in Lebanon Hills Regional Park. If you are interested in helping these efforts, drop me a line at 612-767-1572 or email me at firstname.lastname@example.org.
Keep in mind that efforts and partnerships like what’s happening in Dakota County are happening all over the state. If you’re interested, look out for an opportunity to volunteer near you!