We will learn to live with Aquatic Invasive Species

By Dick Osgood – Guest Columnist

In 1992, I published a column titled “We must learn to live with some milfoil?” And I suppose we have. In light of my strident advocacy for AIS protection, friends and colleagues occasionally remind me of that article.

Today, I would pose this question: “Will we learn to live with Brittle naiad, European frog-bit, Giant salvinia, Hardy hybrid water lily, Hydrilla, Phragmites spp., Salt-cedar, Water chestnut, Water hyacinth, Water lettuce, Yellow iris, Asian carp – bighead, black, grass, silver; Faucet snail, Mute swan, Mystery snails – Chinese, Japanese, banded; New Zealand mud snail, Northern snakehead, Quagga mussel, Round goby, Ruffe, Rusty crayfish, Sea lamprey, Spiny waterflea, Viral hemorrhagic septicemia (VHS) – all species identified by the Minnesota Invasive Species Advisory Committee as posing significant threats of being introduced to and being invasive in Minnesota’s lakes and rivers?”

Will we learn to live with hydrilla, a plant that has been referred to as milfoil on steroids? Hydrilla is so aggressive that it has been known to displace milfoil (hydrilla is in Wisconsin).

Will we learn to live with Quagga mussel, zebra mussel’s cousin? Quagga mussel grows in greater water depths than zebra mussel and has greater impacts (Quagga mussels are in Lake Pepin).

Will we learn to live with spiny waterflea, it attached to fish line (spiny waterfleas are in Mille Lacs Lake)?

Will we learn to live with rusty crayfish, a critter that feeds on fish eggs (rusty crayfish are in Wisconsin)?

None of these two and a half dozen species can be eradicated, so of course we will learn to live with them if they are introduced – we will have no other choice.

Now however, we have a choice.

We can choose to believe the introduction of these species is inevitable.

We can choose to believe the impacts of these species will be minimal.

We can choose to believe the issue of AIS is a convenient way for lakeshore owners to keep others at bay.

We can choose to believe these AIS are spread by waterfowl and animals.

I do not believe these things.

I believe the spread of AIS is accelerated by human activities, particularly boating, and their impacts are real and profound.

With the Minnesota Department of Natural Resources reporting that one in five boats do not comply with AIS laws, up from last year, I believe we need to change the system for protecting our lakes. Changing the system is a choice. If we don’t, I believe fate rather than sound policy will determine how we leave our lakes to our grandchildren.

 Dick Osgood is Executive Director of the Lake Minnetonka Association. The Lake Minnetonka Association is the voice for Lake Minnetonka lakeshore owners and businesses. Dick is a Certified Lake Manager and Past-President of the North American Lake Management Society.