Outdoors: Budget cuts would impact Great Lakes

Protecting and improving one of this nation’s greatest natural resources is a complex task, one that involves plenty of people and organizations. It also requires a boatload of bucks.

With the new White House budget proposal under consideration, there is concern being voiced from Great Lakes conservation groups about cuts that could impact programs to clean, restore and maintain the lakes. One look at the algae-plagued Lake Erie and you get the message.

On point for the conservationists is The Healing Our Waters-Great Lakes Coalition. This is a group of more than 150 environmental, conservation, outdoor recreation organizations, zoos, aquariums and museums representing millions of people whose common goal is to restore and protect the Great Lakes.

Simply stated, they are asking Congress to reject the budget cuts and form “a bi-partisan infrastructure package that provides more financial support for local communities — rather than the Trump Administration’s plan that puts the overwhelming burden of funding infrastructure on local governments,” according to a news release.

There are several lake-restoring programs already in place that need annual federal funding to continue.

Eliminating cuts makes sense. Great Lakes issues involve not just the Midwest, but the entire nation. Millions depend on the lakes for drinking water, jobs and recreation. So it is an economic issue as well.

Carp study: Grass carp, also known as amurs, are an invasive species to the Great Lakes. But wildlife officials seem to tolerate the grass carp because they do not pose the same threat other Asian invaders (bighead and silver carp) do. Grass carp are herbivorous, consuming large quantities of aquatic vegetation, and they can affect fish communities primarily through habitat modification.

Sterile amurs are often placed in ponds to eat and control unwanted algae. They are considered a valuable asset in a controlled situation. They can grow to more than 40 pounds and 48 inches. One article I saw called them “aquatic cows” and pointed out their value for eating unwanted vegetation in small lakes.

A large group of biologists worked on the Sandusky River last August to catch and study the amurs there. Only a few were caught, but a more extensive study this year is planned.

There is currently no evidence of negative ecological impact to the Lake Erie ecosystem attributed to grass carp, preliminary findings state.

New licenses: The first day will be Thursday (March 1) to purchase a new hunting or fishing license. You can purchase your new license or permit online or at hundreds of agents statewide. Ohio’s 2018-2019 licenses are valid immediately upon purchase through Feb. 28, 2019. For information, visit wildohio.gov.

Open house: Don’t forget the Ohio Division of Wildlife open house on Saturday from noon-3 p.m. at the Greene County Fish & Game, 1538 Union Road, Xenia. If you have questions about any aspect of Ohio wildlife, plan to attend.

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