Aquatic Invasive Species (AIS) are plants and animals that invade and displace the native flora and fauna of our lakes, rivers, and wetlands. Where invasive species move in, our native, wild plant and wildlife communities are forced out. A lot of people want to prevent that from happening. We're distressed by the imposition of the strange, new landscapes, and by the loss of our familiar landscapes.
So, in 2012, the Minnesota Legislature came up with a system to control the spread of AIS (McNamara and Ingebrigtsen 2012). One of the programs was mandatory boater-education program, with a trailer decal to prove completion of the course. The MN DNR made plans for a thirty-minute online program that most boaters could do while contentedly floating on a lake, or preparing for the boating season (MN DNR 2012). The program was scheduled to begin in July, 2015
The program was needed. In the summer of 2014, MN DNR staff at boat landings were citing boaters for violations at alarming rates (Smith 2014).
But, apparently, some resort owners were not happy with the prospect of the program kicking in, in the summer of 2015. So a bill was launched to repeal it (Drazkowski and Miller 2015). The authors and co-authors of the bill come from a list of familiar opponents of government regulation where it's felt to interfere with personal liberty:
But what conflict of government regulation with personal liberty are these politicians really stumping about here? Thirty minutes of boater education (to protect the environment) vs. "we know you're good people, just do your best" (and don't sweat it if it doesn't turn out well with AIS in our lakes, rivers, and wetlands). Not the stuff of patriotism, free expression, or fulfillment. Thirty minutes of online training, a reminder at the boat launch, no penalty.
The criticisms that were stated hardly justified the uproar (Kennedy 2015). "The law has no real consequences for violators." "Boaters from other states, just passing through Minnesota, (without launching their boats--does that ever happen?) would be "illegal." It sounded like they're just arguing whatever came to mind (apparently somewhat cocky with the number of votes they had lined up). Rep. McNamara might have come up with perhaps the oddest criticism (in past tense for a program that had yet to begin), that "the sticker really has not worked the way it was designed" (Mohr 2015).
The fact is that responsible boaters are highly-skilled people with a lot of know-how about boats, lakes, navigation, and such. A thirty-minute online training session isn't going to stress them out. Novices, if they haven't rounded out their training, could use it to do so (among other boater education that might come in handy).
It's a good program, and everybody knows it.
Drazkowski, Steve, and Jeremy Miller. 2015. MN 2015 HF 50 / SF 85: Aquatic Invasive Species Prevention Program Requirements Repealed. https://www.revisor.mn.gov/bills/bill.php?b=house&f=HF0050&ssn=0&y=2015.
Kennedy, Tony. 2015. “Minnesota Launching Invasive Species Program amid Resistance at Capitol.” Star Tribune, January 9. http://www.startribune.com/politics/statelocal/288118681.html.
McNamara, Denny, and Bill Ingebrigtsen. MN 2012 HF 2164 / SF 1830: Omnibus Environment and Natural Resources Bill. https://www.revisor.mn.gov/bills/bill.php?b=house&f=HF2164&ssn=0&y=2012.
Mohr, Johathan. 2015. “Tweaks to Invasive Species Law Top Priority for Environment Committee.” Session Daily. January 13. http://www.house.leg.state.mn.us/SessionDaily/SDView.aspx?StoryID=5337.
MN DNR. 2012. “New Trailer Decal Requirement.” Minnesota Department of Natural Resources. http://www.trailers.mndnr.gov/.
Saxhaug, Tom. 2015. MN 2015 SF 669: AIS Trailer Decal Modifications. https://www.revisor.mn.gov/bills/bill.php?b=senate&f=sf0669&ssn=0&y=2015.
Smith, Doug. 2014. “DNR Says Too Many Boaters Still Violating Invasive Species Laws.” Star Tribune, July 29. http://www.startribune.com/sports/outdoors/269148101.html.