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June 12, 2012

Outreach in Dane, Walworth, Oshkosh counties are just the start to protect fisheries and waters

DELAVAN LAKE, Wis. -- Water Guard Jonathan Kaiser saunters to the side of a fishing boat atop a hitched trailer where two anglers were quickly prepping their motorboat for the drive home after spending a chunk of Friday under a hot, strong sun on Walworth County's Delavan Lake.

"How did you do today?" Kaiser asks with a relaxed smile while the two busily tightened straps and pulled plugs to drain water from the hull. These two had more luck than most of the anglers that day. They were going home with dinner.

Kaiser gently eases into an introduction of why the anglers saw the Southeast Region Department of Natural Resources conservation wardens, himself and others donned in blue Clean Boats, Clean Waters t-shirts equipped with clip boards, pamphlets and a survey working the boat landing parking lot.

"We just want to make sure you know about aquatic invasive species," Kaiser says. And he prefaces each step a boater should complete before leaving the boat landing with a diplomatic "I'm sure you knew this, but..." These steps, he continues with a relaxed voice, are to prevent the spread of these invaders which can harm the fisheries and water quality. One of the anglers nods but doesn't stop his preparations.

Kaiser's last statement is a sales pitch - but it comes with no price. He offers the boaters a chance to make sure their boat is free of any invasive species and ready to be used without posing an environmental threat in any Wisconsin water. It's a free boat hot wash by Kaiser using the state's decontamination unit.

"It takes 10 to 15 minutes," Kaiser says of the chemical-free process that uses only hot water of at least 140 degrees delivered with high or low pressure inside and outside the boat and trailer. Any part of the boat, hitch or engine that may have had any contact with the water gets a spray.

The angler thanks Kaiser for his speedy, thorough explanation but declines. Kaiser thanks the anglers for their time and walks away.

Boat decontamination
Kaiser sprays the boat's hitch, engine and the underbody. Any part of the boat, engine or hitch that has had contact or may have had contact with the lake water gets a shot of hot water to kill any invader.
WDNR Photo

It's all about outreach and awareness

Defeat? Hardly. It was one of many successful exchanges Kaiser, the wardens and other volunteers had with the boaters leaving Delavan Lake during the four-hour Friday tour at this very busy boat launch.

"This is all about outreach - public awareness of the laws and aquatic invasive species," Southeast Region Warden Kevin Mickelberg said. Several boaters did accept Kaiser's offer for a free complete boat wash before pulling out of the lot. But the message delivered Friday went beyond the use of the decontamination unit.

"Most boaters are not going to be able to have a state decontamination unit handy to clean their boats. But there are steps every boater can do when it comes to stopping the spread of aquatic invasive species. And that's what this is all about," Mickelberg said between his informative visits with boaters.

The wardens and Kaiser weren't alone in their mission. They were joined in the effort by several members of the Clean Boats, Clean Waters crew.

"This is all about partnership," Robert Wakeman, DNR aquatic invasive species coordinator, said of the blue-shirted Clean Water, Clean Boats crew who are not agency employees. "The Clean Boats, Clean Waters members come from lake associations, lake districts, county staff, University of Wisconsin Sea Grant program and interns. They are not DNR staff. We rely upon volunteers."

Boaters should expect to see Kaiser and more conservation wardens at boat landings statewide this summer, working to increase public awareness and boater actions to stop the spread of destructive aquatic invasive species.

Kaiser headed to Lake Winnebago in the Oshkosh area for another AIS outreach effort on June 9. And, later this month, Wakeman said he hopes to have another outreach event at Peninsula State Park in Door County.

Entire warden service involved in AIS events

Chief Conservation Warden Randy Stark says this year the entire warden service has joined the effort to stop transporting these unwanted species from lake to lake. Accordingly, wardens are joining deputy warden water guards, local agencies and local volunteers to hold regional education and enforcement checks.

"These regional events highlight the importance of stopping these species -- and how to do it," Stark said. "We have good compliance in Wisconsin, but if there's one person who doesn't follow the law and knowingly transports AIS, it undermines everyone else's efforts. We are working to detect those situations that undermine the work of everyone in protecting our lakes and rivers from invasive species."

Aquatic invasive species (AIS) are non-native species such as Eurasian water milfoil, zebra mussels, Asian carp and the fish disease, viral hemorrhagic septicemia (VHS). These AIS collectively harm outdoor recreation and local businesses whose economic vitality is connected to our lakes and rivers. Aquatic invasive species also can hurt Wisconsin's fishing industry by outcompeting native fish and ruining native habitat. Fishing generates $2.75 billion annually and supports 30,000 jobs, a 2006 study by Southwick Associates for the American Sportfishing Association.

It is unlawful to transport boating equipment on a highway with aquatic plants or animals attached. The regulations area available by searching the DNR website for "boat."

Boaters have a role to protect waters

Flushing live well
Conservation Warden Kaiser flushes the live well in the front of the boat.
WDNR Photo

The aquatic invaders spread when people transport plants, animals and water between water bodies. Wisconsin law requires before leaving a waterway users remove all attached plants and animals from their boats and equipment and drain all water, including in live wells and buckets, so that smaller organisms like zebra mussel larvae are not transported. There are some exceptions for bait transport.

Greg Stacey, conservation warden and Water Guard coordinator, says some regional events will include courtesy boat cleaning with a decontamination unit.

"We want to be sure people on lakes and rivers understand the seriousness of AIS and know what's necessary on their part to protect Wisconsin's waters," Stacey said. "If someone is knowingly disregarding the law, wardens will issue citations when needed to achieve compliance with laws designed to protect our waterways."

Stacey says the expanded effort follows years of invasive species education efforts.

Dane County Conservation Warden Supervisor Jeremy Plautz, who led a county effort on Memorial Day, says local boaters already have a high awareness about the aquatic invasives and the laws. "Increasing checks and enforcement is the next step in the process we've taken with education," Plautz said. "People want to stop the spread and want us to enforce the laws to protect their lakes -- and they understand the need for the laws."

More information about invasive species, special events, and ways to get involved, can be found by searching the DNR website for "invasive species," or visit the Wisconsin Invasive Species Council Invasive Species Awareness Month website.

FOR MORE INFORMATION CONTACT: Robert Wakeman - 206-266-, Greg Stacey - 608-576-9123, or Kevin Mickelberg - 414-263-8540

Last Revised: Tuesday, June 12, 2012

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