Down East 2013 ©
While volunteer boat launch monitors continue to stop invasive plants from entering Maine waters, game wardens have issued only three citations for illegal transportation of these plants since 2002.
In that time, the Department of Inland Fisheries and Wildlife has received almost $3.5 million dollars from sale of milfoil stickers to those who own motorized boats. Most of the money is targeted for enforcement of invasive plant laws and rules.
Each of those three citations cost boaters more than a million dollars!
In the difficult negotiations that divided the spoils of the milfoil sticker (which was enacted by the margin of a single vote in the House), IF&W leveraged 40 percent of the money for the Warden Service.
In truth, the wardens go about their normal business, checking boats for safety equipment and registration, and looking for boaters operating under the influence, while they allocate their boat checks to the inspection of boats for milfoil – something that’s impossible out on the water.
The wardens do make sure boats display a current milfoil sticker, turning these highly trained and expensive conservation law officers into revenue police.
Wardens issued 150 summonses and 279 warnings in 2009 to boaters who did not have a valid registration and Lake and River Protection sticker.
They would be checking boat registrations, regardless of the milfoil sticker requirement. And I don’t blame them for grabbing the loot. It was easy.
In the polite world of invasive plant volunteers, lake associations, and lake protection groups, no one has been willing to say the truth: they’re getting ripped off by the Maine Warden Service. The milfoil sticker money that goes to IF&W ought to be going to the DEP, lake association, and nonprofit groups on the frontlines of the fight against invasive plants.
A recent incident in the Rangeley region is a good example of the kinds of saves that regular Mainers are performing in the battle against invasives.
Don and Pam Mantovani, on their very first shift as voluntary Courtesy Boat Inspectors, prevented a major disaster at one of Maine’s most outstanding lakes.
One week after completing the Rangeley Lakes Heritage Trust’s Headwaters Lake Protection and Education Program, the Mantovanis were stationed at a Mooselook boat launch when a Massachusetts boat arrived.
After a careful examination of the hull, prop, and trailer, they discovered a tangle of brown and green leaves wound around the anchor line.
Remembering that they were trained to scoop up fragments of any and all plants, no matter what they looked like, the Mantovanis peeled the plants off the anchor line. With the help of Courtesy Boat Inspectors Ellie and Willis White, the plants were delivered to the RLHT.
A few days later, they got the news: the plant they intercepted was invasive Curly Leaf Pondweed.
The plant came from Lake Cochituate, a small 614-acre Massachusetts lake that is heavily infested with four species of invasive plants.
Lake Cochituate once possessed very high scenic and recreational values, but the scourge of invasives has ruined the water, resulting in nearly $100,000 of highly toxic and ineffective work in just the last two years in a futile effort to remove the invasive plants.
Even though they quarantined parts of the lake and installed barriers to prevent the spread of the plants, the number of infested acres doubled in a single year.
Controversial and poisonous herbicides were applied by the Massachusetts Department of Environmental Management, but did not eliminate the plants.
And now, Cochituate’s plants are hitchhiking to Maine.
The Rangeley Lakes Heritage Trust has been coordinating a shoreline survey program for nine years, as well as training and deploying Courtesy Boat Inspectors.
RLHT volunteers have inspected over 10,000 boats, educated an estimated 40,000 people, and surveyed 100 miles of shoreline.
If you’d like to join the protective screen around Maine’s lakes and ponds, contact Rebecca Kurtz  at RLHT (207-864-7311, extension 5).
As one who fishes a lot in the Rangeley Region, I am very thankful for RLHT’s work and that of the many volunteers, including the Mantovanis, who are giving their time so generously to keep these waters clean.
The Maine Milfoil Initiative is another program that is taking aim at the unwanted interlopers that have been carried into Maine on the bottoms of boats.
With $500,000 of federal aid, plus private donations and money from the milfoil sticker, Maine’s Milfoil Initiative is underway, statewide.
Lake associations all over Maine are participating, led by John McPhedran at the state’s Department of Environmental Protection. The DEP gets 60 percent of the milfoil sticker money and uses it in a variety of ways, from education to eradication.
For example, the Snow Pond/Messalonskee Lake Association held its “Milfoil Mania” on Sunday, June 27, to kick off a summer of work to re-map the lake and identify milfoil hot spots.
A milfoil management plan will be created and later this summer, McPhedran and his diving squad will remove milfoil from some areas of the lake.
On June 25, the DEP treated a lagoon at Damariscotta Lake in Jefferson and 46 acres at Pickerel Pond in Limerick with the heribicide fluridone, to kill hydrilla, considered to be one of the most tenacious invasive aquatic plants.
Dick Butterfield of Jefferson discovered hydrilla in the lake last September. He’s an Invasive Plant Patroller trained by the Volunteer Lake Monitoring Program only one week before his discovery.
There’s a lesson here for you.
You can choose to be pessimistic, and assume that invasive plants will get into every lake and pond eventually, so why try to stop it – or you can care enough about Maine waters to join your friends and neighbors who are working hard to prevent the spread of these plants.
No matter what you choose to do, be thankful that the Mantovanis stepped up and hit a homerun in their first time at the plate.
A great source of information about invasive plants, and Maine’s effort to stop them from getting into our waters, can be found at the Web site of the Lakes Environmental Center in Bridgton . Be sure to check out the latest newsletter and their exceptional “milfoil movie” produced by Roberta Scruggs, an award-winning outdoor news reporter who now works for LEA.