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Illinois boating law takes aim at aquatic invaders

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The population of invasive species has grown significantly over the last 180 years. (Graphic by Greta Johnsen/Data from NOAA)
If you’ve heard of any aquatic invasive species at all, it’s likely to be four species of Asian carp that are feared to be creeping closer to Lake Michigan and the other Great Lakes.
 
But those are just the tip of the iceberg when it comes to invasives, according to the U.S. Army Corps of Engineers.
 
The agency has targeted 39 other plant and animal species as “high-risk” threats to the Great Lakes region. Now, the state of Illinois is hoping to put a dent in the critters’ spread with a law aimed at boaters.

The new state regulation, which goes into effect at the start of 2013, makes it illegal for a boat in one river or lake to pick up plants and then go into another body of water — at least without being cleaned first.

The Northern Snakehead is a particularly frightening threat because it can survive on land for several days.

Some boaters are likely to see the rule as a burden, but Jared Teutsch of the Alliance for the Great Lakes — an advocacy group — says the law is in everyone’s best interests. 

“That beautiful body of water is not going to stay that way if some of these aquatic invasive species get in there,” he says.

Teutsch adds that because recreational vehicles are the number one reason invasive plants are spread, it’s important to keep boaters informed about the threat of invasives in Illinois waterways. That's one reason the state now stipulates that owners of public docks  post information about keeping boats free of invasive plants and animals.

The law also allows police to pull over vehicles that are hauling boats with plant debris.  

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