Citizen volunteers and aquatic invasive species experts will be teaming up to educate boaters at more than 200 landings across Wisconsin over the week of the Fourth of July. This is the fourth annual “Landing Blitz,” where participants will provide free boat inspection and remind boaters how to avoid spreading Eurasian water-milfoil, zebra mussels and other aquatic invasive species. The program has grown over the years, with the 200 landings staffed this year more than double last year’s coverage of 90 landings staffed by boat inspectors.
Aquatic invasive species (AIS) can crowd out native species, disrupt lake ecosystems and interfere with boating, fishing and other recreation. They create extra costs and lost value to homeowners and to state industries such as utilities, real estate, manufacturing, shipping, tourism, fishing and recreation.
Invasives and fish diseases (such as viral hemorrhagic septicemia or VHS) spread to new waters primarily aboard boating and fishing equipment, or when live fish or water moved from one water body to another.
This year’s Landing Blitz runs from June 29 to July 9 and has drawn volunteers from 40 counties trained through Wisconsin’s Clean Boats, Clean Waters program.
These inspectors will demonstrate the required prevention steps boaters must take before they leave a landing, provide reminder stickers for trailers and talk about Wisconsin aquatic invasive species laws. Boaters found practicing good boat hygiene can be rewarded with a free boating towel.
“We know that most folks on the water are aware of the aquatic invasive species laws and are concerned and want to take the steps to clean their boats and equipment,” says Bob Wakeman, Wisconsin’s Statewide Aquatic Invasive Species coordinator. “But until we have 100 percent compliance, the week of July Fourth is a great time for us to be on the water spreading the word, as well as show our appreciation for the boaters and anglers who are taking care of their lakes.”
For many citizens, keeping invasive species out of their favorite lakes and rivers has come to mean not just cleaning their own gear, but getting active in community education as well.
“The level of support this year has been incredible. So has the diversity of participants. It’s great to see people getting involved in protecting their lakes and rivers is on the rise,” says Mike Putnam of DNR, Landing Blitz coordinator.
Oneida County has one such growing program. Aquatic invasive species staff and volunteers will cover 28 county lakes over the week, up from a total of 17 last year, with 23 of these staffed by lake association volunteers. Aquatic Invasive Species County Coordinator Michele Sadauskas says it’s increased citizen involvement that’s been getting the word out on invasive species prevention.
“Although we do put a lot of focus on the Landing Blitz, most lake associations will be out there anyway for the Clean Boats, Clean Waters program. We get great participation,” explained Sadauskas. “For example, Three Lakes Waterfront Association has 800 members and a good volunteer base. This allows Oneida’s AIS county staff to cover other areas. We’re very grateful for their help.”
Landing Blitz inspectors come from a diverse partnership that includes citizen volunteers, AIS county coordinators, UW-Extension interns, lake associations, resource conservation and development councils, nonprofit organizations, Boy Scout troops, the University of Wisconsin Sea Grant and DNR.
They’ll be reminding boaters, anglers and others enjoying Wisconsin waters that they are required to:
• INSPECT boats, trailers, and equipment;
• REMOVE all attached aquatic plants and animals;
• DRAIN all water from boats, vehicles, and equipment; and
• NEVER MOVE plants or live fish away from a water body (limited exceptions apply. Visit DNR’s website and search keywords “bait laws”).