Youth rally in the fight against invasive speciesIn a region covered with lakes large and small, it’s impossible to miss the signs posted near every body of water: Don’t transport aquatic hitchhikers.
In a region covered with lakes large and small, it’s impossible to miss the signs posted near every body of water: Don’t transport aquatic hitchhikers.
Helping boaters understand the methods to avoid these hazardous water-borne hitchhikers is Jared McQuade’s summer job.
McQuade is one of five young people hired in Northwest Wisconsin to address the problem of invasive water species. Assigned to various boat landings across the 10-county region, and paid by American Reinvestment and Recovery Act (ARRA) funding, these summer youth workers have two primary duties. They inform and educate boaters about invasive species, and they perform simple inspections of the boats. Mostly, McQuade and his co-workers model a careful approach to fishing and boating, which will help stop the spread of invasive species.
McQuade was keeping watch over the landing at Gilmore Lake in Washburn County last week.
“Tourism is big in Washburn County,” McQuade said. “If the lakes get filled up with a bunch of junk — weeds and water life that doesn’t have natural predators — they’ll be unusable.”
When boaters arrive at the landing, McQuade asks them where their boats were last used, and if they’ve drained all the water, including the livewell. He also checks for weeds or aquatic animals that may be attached to the boat and trailer. Then, as boaters leave the lake, McQuade again inspects the boats for plants and repeats the request to drain all the water. Fishermen need to dispose of left over bait, and make sure they have iced any fish they’ve caught.
“We need to be sure the boaters aren’t transporting live fish or bait and possibly letting them loose in another lake, as this can spread the fish disease VHS (Viral Hemorrhagic Septicemia),” said McQuade’s supervisor, Lisa Gabriel with the Department of Land Conservation. “It’s been really helpful to have Jared working with us this summer. The Land Conservation Office usually doesn’t have the funding for staff time to do these inspections. Jared, however, is paid by the Summer Youth Employment Program. And, he’s been great, especially since he’s willing to work weekends, when I really need him at the landings. He moves around, going to several different lakes across Washburn County. ”
The prevention of the aquatic invasive species program is a collaborative effort between the departments of workforce development and natural resources. The Northwest Wisconsin Concentrated Employment Program, Inc (CEP, Inc) locates and refers the youth workers, through its seven offices serving the ten counties in this region. Land Conservation staff then supervises the five young people, assigning them to various boat landings at lakes throughout the Northwest counties.
“These jobs are funded for only eight weeks; I won’t have Jared’s help after August 25. Then, I’ll need citizens to continue to pitch in and help as volunteers,” Gabriel said.
To learn more about volunteer opportunities and local efforts to stop the spread of aquatic invasive species contact the county Land Conservation Office or Erin Henegar, the state coordinator for the Clean Boats and Clean Waters program in Stevens Point at (715) 346-4978.