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US Fish & Wildlife Service FieldNotes

Chatting with the Locals

Region 3, June 21, 2013

When people ask me what I do for a living I am always excited to tell them I work outdoors on the rivers. I am not stuck behind a desk, but I am outside enjoying all the splendors nature has to offer. During the summer months the Sea Lamprey Control Program (SLCP) travels throughout the Great Lakes states defending fish from the dreaded invasive sea lamprey.

Working on the rivers definitely has its perks, but one major challenge is determining how I can access the river to complete my job? Waterfront property is extremely desirable and is being inhabited rapidly, which means less public access to the river systems. This is certainly understandable and I don’t blame those who purchase the property; who wouldn’t want to live on the river?

 

You may be asking yourself, how is the best way to learn about local landowners and irrigators? The answer is chatting with the locals. There is a wealth of information you can glean from talking with locals. In order to keep our partnerships with landowners organized and make our program as efficient as possible, we developed and maintain a landowner database. This database contains the information of more than 1,350 land and business owners as well as irrigators in Michigan, Indiana, Ohio, Pennsylvania, and New York. So how did we build this database you may ask? The SLCP has been working in the Great Lakes since the mid 1950’s. Since then, relationships have been built between landowners and SLCP employees. Without the cooperation of land and business owners our program effectiveness would greatly suffer.

One month prior to each lampricide treatment, a letter and pre-paid postcard are sent to each person or business that owns property along the stream scheduled for treatment. The letter provides a brief description of the SLCP and explains that we are treating the river to kill larval sea lampreys before they migrate to the Great Lakes and feed on native fishes, when we plan to conduct the treatment, and the type of data we will collect prior to, during, and after the treatment. The pre-paid post card sent with the letter allows the landowner to either grant or deny access to their property and to express their concerns or comments on our program. After the post cards are returned, land owner information is entered into the database and SLCP employees use the information to organize and schedule the logistics of sea lamprey treatments.

Working one-on-one with landowners is one of the reasons I love my job. Getting to meet new people, hear their stories and form new partnerships is very rewarding. So, when you get the chance to travel to a new area and need to find the best place to access a river, chat with a local and have fun exploring!

The Sea Lamprey Control Program continues to work closely with partners to control populations of sea lampreys in tributaries of the Great Lakes to protect the fishery and related economic activities in the basin (an estimated annual benefit of more than $7 billion/year to the region). The Service delivers a program of integrated sea lamprey control in U.S. waters of the Great Lakes in partnership with the Great Lakes Fishery Commission.

Contact Info: Larry Dean, 612-713-5312, Larry_Dean@fws.gov