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Wisconsin Natural Resources magazine

Wisconsin Natural Resources magazine

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October 2003

Exotics threaten the Great Lakes

Efforts to halt the spread of exotic species.

Natasha Kassulke


Last spring, scientists met in Chicago to talk about halting the spread of exotic species. More than 160 non-native species in the Great Lakes are responsible for $137 billion a year in economic losses nationwide.

WCMP was behind a movement to create a 2001 Governor's Task Force on Invasive Species that WCMP chief Dea Larsen Converse participated in. One year later, they recommended a statewide invasive species program to the governor. Rules that took effect in Wisconsin last year prohibit launching a boat or other boating equipment in navigable waters if aquatic plants or zebra mussels are attached. The DNR received funding to start a watercraft inspection program and a campaign to educate boaters on new properly cleaning boats.

This year, DNR received a WCMP grant for outreach on exotics.

Some communities ask WCMP to fund local programs to motivate people to take action against invasives. Jaime Corbisier, conservationist for the Door County Soil and Water Conservation Department, developed a model to teach about and rapidly react to invasive species outbreaks.

"We have 250 miles of coastline and the most threatened or endangered species in Wisconsin," Corbisier says. A WCMP grant helped fund a consultant to get the county organized and develop a steering committee. The Door County Soil and Water Conservation Department supports a countywide invasive species team.

Now each township has a coordinator. Brochures help people identify exotics and a mapping system captures the information. A website on the project is hosted through University of Wisconsin Extension.

"Now we have early detection and monitoring," Corbisier says. WCMP provided us with funding, but what you can't put a price on is the intrinsic value of the natural beauty that pulls a lot of tourism here."

Natasha Kassulke is Associate Editor of Wisconsin Natural Resources.