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From the Pen of Louie Bond

A posse of villains is on the prowl in Texas waters. They hitchhike unseen on boat propellers, bring their obnoxious relatives to your party as uninvited guests and just generally do their best to excel at destruction and devastation. They don’t belong here, yet they’re spreading like a plague across the state. The photos of these scoundrels — hydrilla, zebra mussels, giant salvinia, salt cedar and more — may not appear on post office “most wanted” signs, but they pose a great threat to our lifestyles.

Although most Texans tend to view invasive species primarily as an issue affecting native species, ecological systems or water recreation, the negative effects of invasive species are much more far-reaching. For example, aquatic invasive species negatively affect water infrastructure (zebra mussels clog water intakes, floating plants clog intakes for hydropower generation), water supply (floating mats of plants prevent agricultural water conveyance in canals) and lakefront property values (floating mats of plants cause decreases in recreational value and scenic appeal).

The annual economic impact of aquatic invasive species in Texas is estimated at billions of dollars, including the threat to the recreational freshwater fishing industry, worth more than $4 billion. Recognizing what’s at stake, Texas lawmakers in the last legislative session appropriated $6.3 million for the 2016-2017 biennium to address statewide management of aquatic invasive species. Between fall 2015 and winter 2016–17, more than 60 aquatic invasive species management projects were mounted statewide. Funding allows the projects to continue until fall 2017.

Here are some of the successes, by the numbers:

713,993 giant salvinia weevils were produced and stocked in East Texas lakes to control giant salvinia.

550,000 registered boaters received “Clean, Drain and Dry” invasive species outreach and prevention materials.

50 lakes and rivers were managed to control infestations of aquatic invasive plants.

Five rapid response events successfully contained introductions of giant salvinia at Lake Fork, Falcon Lake, Brandy Branch Reservoir and Martin Creek Reservoir.

25 miles along the Llano River were managed to control invasive elephant ear.

17,643 acres of giant salvinia were treated with herbicides on East Texas lakes, including Toledo Bend Reservoir and Caddo Lake.

80 marinas were visited as part of an outreach program to promote invasive species prevention partnerships.

334 landowner partners supported efforts to treat Arundo on their properties along more than 100 miles of Hill Country rivers.

1,960 boats were inspected at 57 boat ramps on lakes infested with or at high risk for zebra mussels.

3,500 acres of salt cedar were treated along 112 miles of the upper Brazos River to restore habitats for wildlife, including game birds and endangered fishes.

56 high-risk lakes were monitored to ensure early detection of zebra mussels.

177 million impressions were made through social media, outdoor advertising and print materials as part of the giant salvinia and zebra mussel public outreach campaigns.

It’s a problem that isn’t going away; it requires constant attention and management. TPWD’s Aquatic Invasive Species Working Group utilizes diverse partnerships involving river authorities, landowners, universities, nonprofits, water utilities, anglers, hunters, boaters and others to address the problem. Through these partnerships and funding from the Texas Legislature, the Texas Parks and Wildlife Department has gained ground in the battle against aquatic invasives by enlisting the help of Texans like you.

If you’d like to learn more about how you can help, visit texasinvasives.org.

Thank you for your efforts to keep our waterways free from villainous invasives, both today and for generations to come. Our wild places and wild things need you more than ever.

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