By Scott Brown
ML&SA Executive Director
Recent detections of invasive Didymosphenia geminata, commonly known as didymo or rock snot, and New Zealand mudsnails (Potamopyrgus antipodarum), represent only the latest successful introductions of an increasing array of exotic aquatic invasive species that are rapidly diminishing the economic, ecological and recreational value of Michigan’s freshwater resources. Nearly a century after the first introductions of aquatic invasive species within the waters of Michigan, we have now entered an era marked by increasing difficulty to find even a single lake, stream or wetland not hosting one or more exotic species. Thousands of once pristine freshwater resources within our state have become living examples of the often extraordinary ability of exotic plant and animal species to degrade or destroy the natural ability of our lakes, streams and wetlands to support and sustain the myriad of native fish, plants and other important water-borne creatures that exist at the very heart of what most of us view as “Pure Michigan”. While we appreciate the efforts of the Governor and state legislature in recently appropriating resources to fund the creation of the Michigan Invasive Species Grant Program (MISGP), an initiative focused on preventing and managing both terrestrial and aquatic invasive species, we would suggest that the extent and severity of the exotic aquatic invasive species fueled ecological crisis occurring in many of our lakes, streams and wetlands possesses a significant threat to our economy and to Michigan’s future. Accordingly, we believe that it is time for our Governor and state legislature to begin an earnest conversation about dramatically increasing our investment in exotic aquatic invasive species management initiatives designed to protect the health and value of Michigan’s most valuable natural resources – our inland lakes, streams and wetlands.
The importance of increasing public investment in aquatic invasive species management efforts designed to preserve and protect our immensely valuable inland freshwater ecosystems from an unprecedented and often devastating onslaught of exotic aquatic invasive species cannot be overstated. Our lakes and streams and their associated natural resources such as wetlands represent an important component of Michigan’s ecological, recreational and economic future. Inland lake shoreline property alone, whose immense value is directly related to the presence of healthy aquatic ecosystems, has been conservatively valued at 200 billion dollars, generating 3.5 billion dollars in annual property tax assessments that goes to support hundreds of local units of government, public safety agencies and public school systems. Moreover, water-borne recreational opportunities that directly or in-directly contribute billions of dollars in economic activity to Michigan’s economy like fishing, boating and waterfowl hunting are also dependent upon our ability to protect and maintain the ecological health of our lakes, streams and wetlands. Given their immense value, we would suggest that the increasing threat posed by aquatic invasive species to the health of our inland lakes, streams and wetlands poses a clear and present danger to Michigan’s economy and to our future.
Yet, nearly 100 years since the first introductions of aquatic invasive species within Michigan waters, our legislature has failed to enact either adequate levels of funding and/or an effective and sustainable aquatic invasive species management funding mechanism. We define “adequate” funding for the effective management of the aquatic invasive species crisis as the appropriation of state resources necessary to develop, implement and sustain long term research, programs and initiatives designed to: 1) improve the ability of our public and private resource managers and policy makers to predict the likelihood and potential impacts of exotic aquatic invasive species; 2) survey the distribution and ecological impacts of exotic aquatic invasive species currently hosted by our lakes, streams and wetlands; 3) protect Michigan’s freshwater resources from further contamination by exotic invasive species; 4) enable science-based research focused on improving technologies and methods for controlling exotic aquatic invasive species; 5) manage and control the impacts of exotic aquatic invasive species currently residing in our lakes, streams and wetlands.
While Michigan Lake and Stream Associations recognizes that the vast number of inland lakes, streams and wetlands currently hosting one or more exotic aquatic invasive species presents an enormous natural resource management challenge, we would again strongly suggest to our Governor and to our state legislators that failure to adequately fund the management of this on-going ecological crisis places Michigan at high risk of losing one of the components vital to a viable and prosperous future – high quality inland lakes, streams and wetlands.