DNR working to prevent spread of invasive species
DELAVAN TOWNSHIP John Corbett is no marine biologist, but he knows what to do to protect Wisconsin’s lakes.
“When we come out of the water, we always make sure the trailer has no weeds on it, make sure we clean up the motor and drain the water,” he said on a recent morning, while pulling out his fishing boat from Delavan Lake.
The tasks are simple, Corbett said, and the Waterford man believes it’s something everybody should be doing.
“We need to protect our lakes,” he said.
The measures Corbett is taking are recommended by officials from the Wisconsin Department of Natural Resources, who worked with state lawmakers to curb transport of aquatic species and prevent spread of invasive species.
This summer, officials are asking boaters to beware.
Recently enacted regulations from the department make it illegal for people to drive away from a boat landing with aquatic plants or animals attached to their boat, trailer or vehicle.
A first citation carries a penalty ranging from $232 to $767 and a second offense within three years carries a penalty of up to $2,657.
Last fall, the invasive plant yellow floating heart was found in two storm water ponds near Delavan Lake. DNR staffers were able to work with local officials to rapidly develop and carry out control plans.
Kelly Kearns is an invasive plants coordinator at DNR’s Endangered Resources Program. The new regulations are a comprehensive plan to prevent the spread of invasive species, and they include more than just aquatic plants, she said.
DNR officials are asking boaters to avoid moving water, plants, fish and other organisms from one lake or river to another. The new law prohibits folks from leaving the launch without cleaning up.
“If a new species gets here, it can be troublesome,” Kearns said.
Kearns said there are two categories of invasive species: prohibited and restricted.
“Prohibited species are not here yet or are only in a few areas, and we really want to keep them out,” she said. “Whenever people find these things, we want to know about it and get rid of it.
“These are the ones that could be bad if they get here.”
Restricted species are the ones too widespread for DNR officials to contain. But they’re not everywhere, yet, and Kearns is counting on residents to notify her department if they spot one of the species.
DNR conservation wardens and specialized deputy wardens will make traffic stops of vehicles that have aquatic plants or zebra mussels attached to the vehicle, boat, trailer or other equipment. They’ll issue warnings and educate people about the new law, officials said.
“No matter where it shows up, we’d like people to notify us,” Kearns said. “We want to contain it and keep it from spreading.”
The notification won’t get anyone in trouble, Kearns said.
“They’re not going to be fined or get arrested if they happen to have one of those in their property,” she said. “We’re trying to work with them to try to control it.”