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Wisconsin DNR Launches New Lake Monitoring and Protection Network


As the last of the ice is quickly melting, many people look forward to getting their boats back in the water.

This also means groups will once again head to boat launches in an effort to keep Aquatic Invasive Species [AIS] out of the lakes.

AIS can be determinantal on a lake’s a health.

Eurasian Water Milfoil, Curly-Leaf Pondweed, and Spiny Water Fleas have all been found in lakes in Vilas County.

“Once they’re in there it is very hard to get them out. Most of the time you’re just not going to. In some of our instances we don’t even know how to manage them,” said Vilas County Lake Conservation Specialist Cathy Higley.

Credit Catherine Higley
2019 Priority AIS map of Vilas County.

That’s why Higley works so hard to prevent the invasive species from getting in the lakes in the first place.

Clean Boats, Clean Waters is a large part of that effort.

The county conservation office works with other agencies, lake associations, and volunteers to monitor boats coming in and out and public boat launches.

Last year, volunteers and paid staff spent nearly 10,000 hours monitoring lakes in Vilas County.

One of the more challenging parts of the effort to stop AIS spread is securing the funding.

“Counties were in that position where they have someone hired and then they put in for another competitive grant and then they don’t get it. Somebody ranks higher and they end up having staff leave because of the job goes away,” said Higley.

Higley is hoping the DNR’s new Lake Monitoring and Protection Network will help.

It sets up AIS funding more like a contract and less like a grant. The DNR will distribute the funds based on a number of factors like AIS presence, the amount of surface water, and public access availability.

The state is also encouraging neighboring counties to work together to monitor lakes in the area.

“The DNR just can’t afford to give full time aquatic invasive species coordinator program money to every county. So they’re counting on counties to either cover the gaps or to regionalize,” said Higley.

Vilas County works with the North Lakeland Discovery Center and the Lac du Flambeau Tribe to help fight AIS.

Highly thinks in the long-term this program will be for the better.

“I think it’s going create just a bit more consistency and people who live on the lakes and who love our lakes won’t really be as questioning as you, ‘where do I go with the concerns?’ So I think after time, it’s just going to be a bit more stable of a situation,” said Higley.

A little over half of all Wisconsin counties signed on this year.

The DNR expects more to join when the next funding cycle begins in the fall.

Credit Wisconsin DNR

Katie Thoresen is WXPR's News Director/Vice President.
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