Thursday, May 22, 2014

Wisconsin, other Great Lakes states team up to fight aquatic invasive species

CHICAGO - A tri-state public service announcement is just the latest example of Wisconsin teaming up with neighboring states to help prevent the spread of aquatic invasive species.

While Wisconsin continues to work with its partners at home to meet the challenges of aquatic invasive species in its inland waters, the state is forging ahead with new regional efforts aimed at pooling resources and efforts to better and more efficiently protect the Great Lakes from new invaders, state environmental officials say. In turn, those efforts will better protect inland waters as well.

"Stopping aquatic invasive species

is all about shutting down pathways and it must be a focus for our nation, the Great Lakes region and Wisconsin," says Department of Natural Resources Water Administrator Russ Rasmussen. "This is something we can all unite behind. Together, we can work smarter, more efficiently, and more effectively to achieve our common goals."

Examples of such recent regional collaboration include:

  • Wisconsin and other states are working together to apply for federal funding to develop an interstate effort to systematically look for, and respond to, early signs of new invasive species within the Great Lakes themselves. Federal agencies like the U.S. Fish & Wildlife Service and the U.S. Environmental Protection Agency now have some monitoring efforts underway but the states aim to increase the level of monitoring of the Great Lakes.
  • Late last month, Gov. Scott Walker and counterparts from other Great Lakes states signed a mutual aid agreement [PDF] committing the states to share staff and equipment to respond quickly to serious threats to the basin from aquatic invasive species and to encourage more cooperative actions to combat aquatic invasive species.
  • Earlier this spring, Wisconsin and other states called on the U.S. Army Corps of Engineers to implement immediate interim steps to keep Asian carp out of the Great Lakes and committed themselves to work together to reach a consensus for long-term actions.

Wisconsin has for decades been working with states and federal agencies involved in managing the Mississippi River and Great Lakes to address aquatic invasive species, including keeping Asian carp from getting established in the Upper Mississippi River and in the Great Lakes. The two basins are artificially connected through the Chicago waterway system.

The new regional efforts are aimed at protecting these regionally important waters from Asian carp and other new invasive species and by default, will better protect states' inland waters as well, says Bob Wakeman, DNR's aquatic invasive species coordinator.

Since the 1800s, more than 180 aquatic invasive species have been documented in the Great Lakes, and 30 of those species have been spread to Wisconsin inland waters. Wisconsin research has shown that boaters are the primary way that aquatic invasive species spread from one water to another.

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