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Spend now to stop invasive species spread

Policymakers in St. Paul are considering a $4 million a year package to stop the spread of invasive species such as zebra mussels and Asian carp in Minnesota. We support the move.

The potential devastation that can be caused by infestation is immense. Already, zebra mussels have appeared in the Alexandria and Pelican Rapids areas, and the spread of them seems all but inevitable without a clampdown by the Department of Natural Resources and other agencies. Enforcement must be strict, and boaters must be vigilant in making sure the invasive species are contained.

Why is this so important? Let's look at the revenue enjoyed each year by the state of Minnesota due to tourism.

According to Explore Minnesota, travel/tourism in Minnesota generates:

• $11.0 billion in leisure & hospitality gross sales

• $3.9 billion in wages

• $699 million in state sales tax

With numbers like that, $4 million a year seems like a pittance. Surely with a very tight state budget, there aren't many pots of money lying around, ready for use on new initiatives like this. A proposal to increase boating and canoe licenses by $5 to $15 has been made. While that may cause some consternation, consider the alternative. Will we let our lakes -- some of Minnesota's most valuable resources -- fall prey forever to these invaders to our ecosystem? Will we surrender our lakes because we have to spend an extra few dollars a year to protect them today?

It seems like $4 million is a good investment.

The Wadena Pioneer Journal editorial is the collective voice of the editorial board. Today's piece was written by Steve Schulz, editor and publisher.