Jeff Forester's Testimony Against the Repeal of County AIS Prevention AId

My name is Jeff Forester and I am Executive Director of Minnesota Lakes and Rivers Advocates. Our membership is made up of lake and river lovers, cabin owners, lake home owners, anglers, hunting land owners, resort owners, lake associations, County Coalition of Lakes Associations (COLAs) and citizens and groups that care about Minnesota's most precious resource - our waters.

On behalf of this colation of thousands, I am here to voice strong opposition to HF 570 that would repeal the County AIS Prevention Aid put in place last year by this legislature. 

The County AIS Prevention Aid has unleashed a remarkable and needed energy across the state. The 2015 Aquatic Invaders Summit, which was set up to bring counties and their partners together to create a Local AIS Action Framework that they can use to guide local efforts, brought in over 400 people from 54 Counties, Wisconsin and Canada and included not only resource managers at many different governmental levels, but resort owners, lake associations, angling groups, business people, and County Commissioners.  

The County AIS Prevention Aid puts money where it is most needed.  AIS is a Statewide problem with local consequences. The Mille Lac DNR Blue Ribbon Panel recently pointed to the combination of zebra mussels and spiny water flea as one of the contributing factors to the dramatic decline of the walleye fishery. The resulting impacts to the local economy have been profound.

Here is a short list of how the Counties are using the funding they have received so far - risk assessments so that they spend their money wisely – targeting the most vulnerable waters for increased inspections and activities - forming collaborations between counties to increase effectiveness and efficiency, increased presence at boat ramps for inspections, more decontaminations units so that the public has the tools they need to do the right thing.  

One County resource manager told me, "The DNR can't stop AIS alone, the counties can't do it alone, the lake associations can't do it alone. This is going to take everyone at all levels working together."  This funding supports those types of multi level partnerships.

Let me close by quoting another email I received just yesterday. "I have been an AIS inspector for the last few years and we have to have funding to protect our lakes. We get many boats up here in Hubbard County from the cities. Last year someone came up to one of our lakes and the boat had been on an infected lake. The boat owner knew they were on an infected lake. They had taken the boat to the car wash, but they they did not do a good job. The lake they were going to put their boat into had an inspector on it that day and he found a live zebra mussel on it."

Already this investment is saving lakes and saving money.  The costs of prevention are always far far less than the cost of mitigation after the fact.

Thank you for this opportunity. I welcome any comments or questions you may have.

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