In 2003, a group of students in Minocqua looked at the potential impact aquatic invasive species would have on lake tourism in their town. These students then proposed a plan of action to prevent the spread of one of the aquatic invasive species present in their community, Eurasian Water-milfoil. The Christopher-Columbus Foundation, recognizing innovation in young people then awarded this group $25,000 to devlop, publicize and distribute 150 educational tool kits to 25 counties across the state. The success of this partnership resulted in the following year's creation of the Wisconsin Lake Partnership's "Clean Boats, Clean Waters" watercraft inspection effort that continues today.
Each year, dedicated individuals initiate conversations with boaters throughout the state. They talk to boaters as they enter and exit the lakes, educating them on when and how invasive species are likely to catch a ride on boats into other water bodies. They help to remove plants, drain bilges and live wells of water and gather information on boaters knowledge of aquatic invasive species laws. These inspectors talk and educate boaters about how, by following a few simple steps, they can help prevent the spread of aquatic invasive species.
To date, the "Clean Boats, Clean Waters" effort has employed over 2,000 volunteers at over 3,000 boat landings across the state. In 2011 alone, 217,355 boaters were contacted and 101,035 watercrafts were inspected!
2012 is expected to be another successful year for the "Clean Boats. Clean Waters" effort. A new data collection sheet will be used to help capture new information to help determine the risk each boater represents. Some inspectors will be observing boater behavior rather than engaging in conversation. These observations will then be used to better understand what steps boaters are regularly taking on their own and what steps might need to be further highlighted in the future.