TRAVERSE CITY — Gov. Rick Snyder wants to spend $14 million over the next two years in a stepped-up fight to head off more invasions by exotic species that spread disease and threaten Michigan’s native plants and wildlife, according to a state official.
The proposal, part of Snyder’s fiscal 2014-15 budget being released Wednesday, calls for adding about 16 positions in three state departments to strengthen early detection capabilities and work more closely with local governments and organizations, said Keith Creagh, director of the Department of Natural Resources.
“Historically we’ve waited for the pest to make an impact before we’ve responded, and we’ve not been as successful as we need to be,” Creagh told The Associated Press. “We need to get ahead of the curve.”
More than 200 non-native species have taken hold in Michigan and the rest of the Great Lakes watershed. Aquatic invaders include the parasitic sea lamprey and the quagga and zebra mussel, which have caused billions of dollars in damage to fish populations and infrastructure.
On land, feral swine damage crops and wetlands, while insects such as the emerald ash borer and beech bark disease devastate forests. Thick, towering reed grass called phragmites has overrun shorelines around Lake Huron’s Saginaw Bay. Eurasian watermilfoil depletes oxygen and clogs boat motors in many of the state’s inland lakes.
Snyder has instructed state departments that deal with invasive species — the DNR, the Department of Environmental Quality and the Department of Agriculture and Rural Development — to develop a more comprehensive approach to keeping them out or limiting their spread if they do show up, Creagh said.
The government previously has fought invasions on a species-by-species basis with too little cooperation among agencies and not enough consideration of systemic problems that might be contributing to the problem, he said. The new plan calls for a more holistic approach by doing things such as better analyzing and shutting down potential pathways into Michigan.