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Great Lakes Article:

Aquatic Invasive Species Public Hearings
Published December 18, 2007

RHINELANDER - A public hearing on proposed invasive species rules will be held in Rhinelander next month.

The Department of Natural Resources says this is the public's chance to have input on a proposed new invasive species classification system and rules.

The proposal classifies invasive species of plants, animals and nonagricultural plant pests into four different categories, two of which would be regulated and two which would not.

The two regulated categories, prohibited and restricted, would make it illegal to import and export these species, buy, plant or release them, according to Ron Martin, who leads the Department of Natural Resources invasive species team that is developing the proposal.

Martin says, "There are a number of species that are close to our doorstep, including Kudzu and Asian carp species, and a number of others that are just starting to get established in the state. We hope a comprehensive classification system will prevent new introductions of invasive species from occurring and slow the spread of those already here."

The DNR says these informational meetings will offer a chance for the public to learn more about the classification system proposal, developed to reflect the recommendations of the Wisconsin Council on Invasive Species. These public input sessions are also aimed at providing the DNR with feedback to further
shape the proposal before it seeks permission from its policymaking board to conduct formal public hearings, says Kelly Kearns, a DNR invasive plant specialist involved in developing the proposal. Kearns says, "We want to hear from the public whether this classification system works and if we have the right species in the right categories. "This is the first time Wisconsin has developed a comprehensive invasive species law in the state. It should address many of the shortfalls we see in the current piecemeal approach to our regulations."

Kearns also hopes to hear from the public on those situations in which people may get permits that would allow them to "use a restricted species in a way that would not cause problems."

Invasive species are plants, animals and pests from other regions or countries that proliferate and have few natural predators or pathogens in Wisconsin to keep their populations in check here. Invasive species generally crowd out native species, which in turn harms wildlife that depends on native species for food and habitat. Invasives also can interfere with recreation, as Eurasian watermilfoil does when thick mats of the plant tangle in boat propellers, and they can affect industry and cost taxpayers and consumers money. For example, buckthorn and honeysuckle, by preventing forest regeneration, can cause short- and long-term damage to Wisconsin's $22.6 billion forestry and forest products industry.

More than 180 aquatic invasive species such as zebra mussels, round gobies and spiny water flea have entered the Great Lakes in the last century, and more than 130 non-native invasive plants have been documented in Wisconsin.

People play a significant role in spreading invasive species, and the proposed classification system seeks to address the ways by which people contribute to the purposeful or accidental spread.

The public informational meetings will all begin at 5:30 p.m. on the
following dates at the locations listed:

* January 10, Spooner - at the Spooner Agricultural Research Station,
W6646 Hwy 70.
* January 11, Rhinelander - (Listening Session Also From 2-4 p.m.),
Learning Resources Center Theater, Nicolet College, 5364 College Dr.
* January 14, Madison - UW Arboretum, McKay Center Auditorium, 1207
Seminole Highway.
* January 15, Milwaukee - Governor's Room, Tommy Thompson Youth Center
(Gate 5) Wisconsin State Fair Park, 640 South 84th St.
* January 16, Green Bay - Brown Co. Central Library, 515 Pine St.
* January 17, La Crosse - La Crosse Central High School, Commons (Room
126), 1801 Losey S. Blvd.

People will also be able to submit comments on-line or in writing through the Web site or they may send them to:
DNR Invasive Species Team
P.O. Box 7921
Madison, WI 53707-7921

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