A University of Minnesota fisheries researcher has a plan.
Minnesotans strongly reaffirmed their commitment to clean lakes and rivers in 2008, when they overwhelmingly supported a statewide sales tax increase to fund environmental programs and the arts through the Legacy Amendment.
Four years later, invasive species continue to pose a threat to the waters where Minnesotans fish, boat and swim -- so much so that the state Department of Natural Resources will set up mandatory roadside boat checks this spring.
Motorists found to be towing boats carrying exotic plants and creatures will be sent to nearby decontamination stations, and owners will face citations and fines rather than easy-to-ignore warnings.
The roadside checks -- and monetary penalties for violators -- are the logical next step for the DNR, which has focused on education over enforcement in recent years. The state's 800,000 boaters shouldn't need more public service announcements. They've been adequately informed and forewarned.
It's stunning that 18 percent of boaters stopped by conservation officers last season were in violation. The DNR deserves public support for the new roadside checkpoint program, even if it means some minor delays on the roads this spring.
Minnesotans should also demand that their elected representatives come up with a multipronged invasive-species strategy in 2012.
It was encouraging to hear the legislative response last week to a proposal by University of Minnesota fisheries researcher and carp expert Prof. Peter Sorensen to create a world-class invasive-species research center at the U.
If anything, state Sen. Bill Ingebrigtsen said, Sorensen's plan for $750,000 in startup funds and a $1.3 million annual budget is too modest.
The DNR could put checkpoints on every road in Minnesota and bubble barriers in every river, but what's really needed is what Ingebrigtsen calls a "silver bullet." And Minnesota should be leading the way with research that can develop that kind of ammunition.
Startup capital for the center could be included in this year's bonding bill. Operational funding could come from state lottery proceeds, Legacy funds, or higher fees for boating and out-of-state fishing licenses.
Too often these kinds of proposals take too long to implement. With a timely bipartisan push, Minnesota can bring a new sense of urgency to the invasive-species battle before it's a lost cause.
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