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May 17, 2011

MADISON -- Two hundred Wisconsin lakes with boat landings will be surveyed this summer in a search of new or never been reported populations of zebra mussels, Eurasian water milfoil and other aquatic invasive species.

The monitoring is part of stepped up efforts to help stop the spread of the invaders by alerting managers to invasions when they are still new and may be possible to contain or control.

"We hope this increased monitoring will help us detect invasions earlier, when we stand a greater chance of controlling them," says Bob Wakeman, aquatic invasive species coordinator for the Department of Natural Resources.

"The baseline monitoring also will help us better understand how prevalent these invaders are, whether the rate of their spread is changing, and how effective our outreach and enforcement efforts are."

Three quarters of Wisconsin lakes with public access are free of Eurasian water milfoil and zebra mussels and other key invaders. Aquatic invasive species are a problem because they can crowd out native species, which in turn can have an impact on fish and wildlife that depend on native species for food and habitat. Aquatic invasives can also: interfere with recreation, as Eurasian water milfoil does when thick mats of the plant tangle in boat propellers; decrease property values, as a recent UW-Madison survey (exit DNR; pdf) found in Vilas County; and cost property owners, government and industry millions of dollars each year to try to prevent their spread or control them.

DNR is able to pursue the expanded monitoring because of federal funding received through competitive grants under the Obama administration's Great Lakes Restoration Initiative. The money is paying for additional state staff to coordinate and conduct much of the monitoring work.

In the past, DNR has relied heavily on volunteers to look for invasive species and report them when they find them. Waters were checked where volunteers were interested and available to do the monitoring, Wakeman says.

"They've done yeoman's work," he says. "The federal money will help us broaden that effort to make sure we get a true statewide picture of what's going on."

Over the next five years, the DNR hopes to sample 200 lakes each year. The new surveys will include searches for invasive species by staff in snorkeling gear and using handheld nets with small mesh sizes to capture free-floating organisms like juvenile zebra mussels and plankton, according to Scott Van Egeren, who will be coordinating the monitoring.

Some of the species that will be searched for include Eurasian water milfoil, zebra mussels, spiny water fleas and Chinese mystery snails. The also program will be using the smart prevention principles outlined by Jake Vander Zanden, a professor at the UW-Madison Center for Limnology.

Only lakes with a boat landing and in which the habitat is suitable for establishment of an invasive species will be searched, Van Egeren says. For instance zebra and quagga mussels need a certain amount of calcium to form their shells, so only lakes that are known to have appropriate calcium concentrations will be searched for these species.

A slide show of some of these aquatic inasive species is available on the DNR website.

"If we do find something, we'll inform the local lake manager and the lake community so they can step up efforts to keep the invasive species from spreading to neighboring lakes and rivers. Such early detection will also give them the best chance for success if they implement control efforts," Wakeman says.

Local law enforcement and DNR conservation wardens can check to see if boaters and anglers are complying with state aquatic invasive species laws before leaving a launch.

The expanded monitoring effort is among several recent Wisconsin initiatives to stop the spread of aquatic invasive species. New regulations for ballast water discharges by vessels arriving in Wisconsin's Great Lakes ports, a recent classification system that makes it illegal to buy, sell, trade and possess certain invasive species, and increased grants to local governments and other partners to help prevent and contain the spread of aquatic invasive species are among the efforts.

FOR MORE INFORMATION CONTACT: Bob Wakeman (262) 574-2149; Scott Van Egeren (608) 264-8895


DNR maintains real-time data showing which of Wisconsin's 15,081 lakes and more than 40,000 miles of streams and rivers have been confirmed to have aquatic invasive species. Find more information at the Aquatic Invasive Species pages of the DNR website.

To prevent accidentally spreading aquatic invasive species and fish diseases like viral hemorrhagic septicemia, all boaters and anglers should:

Last Revised: Tuesday, May 17, 2011

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