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Lawmakers target invasive species

ST. PAUL - Minnesota policymakers want to quickly launch a long-discussed war on plants and animals invading the state. Asian carp, including ones that jump out of the water and hit boaters, are the most publicized invasive species. While those c...

Gov. Mark Dayton, left, and Natural Resources Commissioner Tom Landwehr
Gov. Mark Dayton, left, and Natural Resources Commissioner Tom Landwehr look at a bigmouth carp, one of the invasive species they want to keep out of Minnesota waters. Don Davis / Minnesota State Capitol Bureau

ST. PAUL - Minnesota policymakers want to quickly launch a long-discussed war on plants and animals invading the state.

Asian carp, including ones that jump out of the water and hit boaters, are the most publicized invasive species. While those carp have not arrived in Minnesota, much smaller zebra mussels, spiny waterfleas and the Eurasian watermilfoil plant already are common in areas.

"Once they take over, it is too late," Gov. Mark Dayton said Wednesday as he joined lawmakers to support a $4 million-a-year plan to fight the invasion. "It is a crisis-prevention strategy."

Invasive species have been discovered in more than 1,000 lakes and streams across the state, destroying fish habitat, driving out native species and, eventually, damaging the tourism industry.

"It is a bit of a silent plague," said Natural Resources Commissioner Tom Landwehr.

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Sen. Tom Saxhaug of Grand Rapids said he wants the bill to pass before ice disappears from Minnesota lakes.

Democrats Dayton, Saxhaug and Rep. John Ward of Brainerd would fund their proposal by adding a surcharge of $5 to $15 to three-year canoe and boat licenses.

Funding is where the political problem lies. Republicans have vowed not to raise taxes or fees.

"If there is a fee bill that has a chance, this would be the one," said Sen. Bill Ingebrigtsen, R-Alexandria, who leads a Senate environment committee.

However, he and his House committee chairman counterpart, Rep. Denny McNamara, R-Hastings, are working on a proposal to fund the invasive species fight with money obtained from a sales tax increase voters approved in 2008. Ingebrigtsen said he is optimistic that funding will be found for the battle.

Seven lakes in Ingebrigtsen's area are infested with zebra mussels and 19 lakes statewide.

The bill also increases penalties for violating laws designed to prevent species transfer.

Davis works for Forum Communications Co. He can be reached at (651) 290-0707 or ddavis@forumcomm.com

Related Topics: ENVIRONMENT
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