Clean boats = clean water = fewer invasive species

These THREE fishermen worked with the Clean Boats, Clean Waters inspector to check for and remove plants and drain their livewell after a day of fishing on Green Lake. They removed their boat from the lake at Dodge Memorial County Park. submitted photo

by Anna Cisar

If you were out on the water this summer season fishing, paddling, skiing, or just taking a relaxing cruise around the lake you more than likely ran into someone clad in blue at a boat landing who spoke with you about invasive species.

These watercraft inspectors discussed with you the importance of inspecting your boat and equipment for plants and animals, removing them and asked you to drain any and all water from your boat, including your livewell.

You may have viewed these interactions as pesky and annoying but hopefully the importance of these inspectors and their message was well received all the same.

This program is called Clean Boats, Clean Waters (CBCW) and is an opportunity for boaters, fishermen, and waterfowl hunters to take a front line defense against the spread of aquatic invasive species (AIS).

The interactions between the watercraft inspectors and the boaters is to help inform water users of the importance of preventing the spread of AIS and protecting our waterways.

The hope is that these interactions spark the social diffusion and social norm of cleaning boats — just like wearing your seatbelt.

That may seem like a bold and maybe even an outrageous sentiment. But is it really?

We love our lakes and rivers. We have our favorite spots to fish, ski, swim or just to sit and enjoy the view.

Aquatic invasive species have the ability to alter our favorite waterways for the worse.

If we don’t take a little time and effort to protect what we love we could easily lose our favorite spots, not to mention spend thousands of dollars a year trying to manage the destructive nature of AIS.

What may drive this sentiment home is that Clean Boats, Clean Waters was not developed by the Wisconsin Department of Natural Resources or any other governing body. It wasn’t even created by an environmental non-profit.

Clean Boats, Clean Waters was originally named the “Milfoil Masters” and was brought to life by a few students in northern Wisconsin who noticed a particular plant, Eurasian water milfoil, growing near the surface of the water on one of their lakes.

Once realizing the negative implications it can have on lakes, they felt the need to share this with others in order to protect the lakes they love.

And where did this group of school students think their message would be the most well-received?

You guessed it, boat landings!

They dubbed themselves the “Milfoil Masters” and created informational handouts on preventing the spread of invasive species to the very people who use the lake, boaters, and the same people who, unknowingly, are most likely to spread invasive species.

A year later, in 2004, the state of Wisconsin adopted this program and it is now called Clean Boats, Clean Waters.

Ever since the program’s introduction, the number of watercraft inspectors, lakes participating and community members contacted increases every boating season.

This past summer, more than 200 people were contacted in less than 50 hours on Green Lake County boat landings.

This particular inspector was an intern with Golden Sands RC&D, who spent weekends on various boat landings in Marquette, Green Lake, Waushara and Waupaca counties.

The watercraft inspectors you interact with typically are volunteers from the local lake group who are trying to protect the water they love.

Simply put, they are out there not just to keep that lake healthy and clean, but to keep it fishable, skiable and beautiful for themselves and you.

After all, Wisconsin waterways are for everyone to enjoy- doesn’t that leave it up to us to protect them?

Anna Cisar is the regional aquatic invasive species coordinator with Golden Sands Resource Conservation & Development Council, which works in Green Lake, Marquette, Waupaca and Waushara counties.