During a recent focus group study anglers voiced a commitment to protecting their lakes from aquatic invasive species (AIS). One angler explained, “You do it because it’s the right thing to do. If you use the water, you should help save the water.” Another angler agreed, “I like fishing and I want to save the lakes as best I can.” Yet, knowing what to do to protect waterways, how to do it, and, especially, how to pay for these actions can be a big hurdle for many people.
To partner with and assist anglers, lake organizations, other lake enthusiasts, and local governments to better manage and protect their lakes, the Legislature authorized the Department to create its Lake Grants program in 1989. The program’s aim is to provide financial resources that help these partners achieve these goals for their lakes.
Since its inception, nearly $75 million in grants has been awarded to our partners. The Department provides guidance in preparing the applications in order to help applicants place well in the competitive process and reel in a grant. Then, twice each year, the applications are reviewed by a statewide panel of water resource specialists and they fund as many applications as possible. Unsuccessful applicants can re-apply in the next round, again with input from the Department’s lake managers.
In 2004, the Legislature expanded the grant program to include grants for the detection, eradication and control of AIS in light of the growing problem these species pose for Wisconsin’s waterways. Since then over $23 million – nearly a third of the program’s total – has gone for AIS projects.
This fall, lake managers reviewed 43 AIS grant applications from towns, cities, counties, lake districts and associations, and non-profit groups. Among the three kinds of AIS grants, 25 grants, amounting to $858,000, went to education, prevention and planning projects. Another 13 grants for early detection and rapid response projects received about $196,000, while five control projects for established AIS populations received $588,000.
This group of AIS grants addresses a variety of invasive plants and animals. For example, early detection and rapid response grants support efforts against: Eurasian water milfoil and curly-leaf pondweed at northern Lac Vieux Desert, yellow floating heart, southern cattails, and phragmites reeds along Lake Michigan, as well as invasive animals like zebra mussels, and a mosquito fish infestation in southern Wisconsin’s Sugar River.
Funding for lake grants comes mainly from the Conservation Fund of the Water Resources Account which comes from a portion of the State tax on gasoline that is used by motorized watercraft. Another occasional source is federal competitive grants such as the Great Lakes Restoration Initiative . Recipients must provide a 25% matching contribution.
The care involved in keeping lakes healthy requires, like accomplished fishing, skill, quick reflexes, and adaptive perseverance. AIS are one of the more recent problems facing lakes. In response, the Department has adapted by expanding efforts to assist its many partners in keeping their lakes healthy and AIS at bay with expertise, guidance and financial assistance.