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June 28, 2011

Courtesy boat checks on tap at 90 lakes over July 4 holiday

MADISON -- Boaters and anglers at nearly 90 lakes across Wisconsin will be greeted over the Fourth of July holiday with courtesy boat checks and free bobbers, towels and stickers reminding them of the steps they need to take to avoid spreading aquatic invasive species to new waters.

This is the fourth annual boat landing blitz in Wisconsin, when lake association members, state and county aquatic invasive species experts, and conservation wardens converge on the boat landings for a long weekend of educational and prevention efforts.

More groups are participating than ever, says Bob Wakeman, Wisconsin's aquatic invasive species coordinator. "We're very pleased by the number of lake organizations participating in the holiday landing blitz," he says. "This is Wisconsin's busiest boating weekend of the year and it's a great opportunity to raise awareness of aquatic invasive species, the damage they can do, and the steps we need everybody to take to stop these aquatic hitchhikers."

Aquatic invasive species such as Eurasian water milfoil, zebra mussels, spiny water flea and rusty crayfish can crowd out native species, which in turn impacts fish and wildlife that depend on native species for food and habitat. They also can interfere with recreation, as Eurasian water milfoil does when thick mats of the plant tangle in boat propellers, and depress property values, as a recent University of Wisconsin-Madison survey found in Vilas County. Wisconsin waterfront property owners, government and industry spend millions of dollars each year on efforts to prevent and control aquatic invasive species.

Three quarters of Wisconsin lakes with public access are free of Eurasian water milfoil and zebra mussels and other key invaders, Wakeman says; the landing blitz seeks to keep those waters AIS-free and to prevent lakes or rivers with one or two invasive species from getting any more.

Reesa Evans, Adams County lake specialist, says that five lakes in Adams County -- Peppermill, Tri-Lakes, Jordan lake, Big Roche A Cri and Goose Lake -- are participating in the blitz with an eye toward keeping any new invaders out of their lakes.

"They don't want anything else coming in," she says. "We spend a lot of time working on the whole AIS problem, and letting them know how easily they can be come infected with new species once one invader gets in."

Evans says a lot of the smaller lake associations within her county struggle with the costs associated with trying to control Eurasian water milfoil, the most common aquatic invader. Many of the participating lakes will field a combination of volunteers and high school students they've hired to work over the summer.

Conservation wardens and Water Guard

State conservation wardens and specialized deputy wardens known as "Water Guards" also will be out in full force over the Fourth of July holiday educating boaters and enforcing boating and fishing regulations as well as laws to prevent the spread of aquatic invasive species and fish diseases like viral hemorrhagic septicemia, or VHS.

"Our goal is to achieve voluntary compliance through education, enforcement, and community involvement," says Chief Warden Randy Stark. "Polls show there's high awareness and compliance with the laws in Wisconsin, and that's important. It only takes one careless person to cancel out the hard work of a community in stopping the spread of invasives in our waterways."

Stark says that boaters and anglers who know the law and choose to not follow it are subject to enforcement action.

"Preventing the spread of invasives is important work, particularly for the next generation of Wisconsin citizens, and it's a responsibility we all share."

To avoid spreading aquatic invaders, before launching and before leaving a launch, boaters and anglers must:

More information on these rules and related exceptions for minnow use, is available on the invasive species [/invasives/] pages of the DNR website.

FOR MORE INFORMATION CONTACT: Bob Wakeman - (262) 574-2149 or Randy Stark - (608) 266-1115

Last Revised: Tuesday, June 28, 2011

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