Don’t spread aquatic invasive species

The summer recreation season is in full swing, bringing boaters from all over to fish and float on Michigan’s lakes. When watercraft are on the move, though, that means aquatic invasive species — non-native plants and animals that spread rapidly and have negative effects on recreation and the environment — could be, too.

Gov. Rick Snyder recently proclaimed June 30 to July 7 as Aquatic Invasive Species Awareness Week. Lakefront landowners are taking the opportunity to ask everyone who goes on the water to clean, drain and dry their boats, trailers and gear before traveling to new destinations.

“The quality of our lakes and streams is threatened by an increasing number of aquatic invasive species,” said Scott Brown, executive director of Michigan Lake Stewardship Associations. “Awareness goes a long way toward helping to control their further spread.”

.Brown’s group is a nonprofit, statewide organization dedicated to the preservation, protection and wise management of Michigan’s inland lakes. Its membership represents over 250 lake associations, most of which rely on lakefront landowners to pay for annual chemical treatments to combat invasive plants.

According to Brown, an estimated $30 million is spent annually to control aquatic plants in Michigan.

“Most lakes are already dealing with Eurasian watermilfoil,” said Brown. “Now, starry stonewort is making its way to lakes throughout the state. Chemical treatments only give these species a ‘haircut’ — they don’t eradicate them.”

In addition to invasive plants, zebra and quagga mussels are moving into inland lakes, and there currently are no effective ways of removing these species once they move in — that’s why the “clean, drain, dry” approach is critical.

Weeds, debris and lake or stream water can include invasive species or their seeds and larvae. A few minutes of inspection and cleaning can ensure that no one unintentionally gives aquatic hitchhikers a ride to a new location.

For instructions on cleaning, draining and drying boats, trailers and gear, visit Michigan’s Clean Boats Clean Waters website at micbcw.org.

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