On March 15 of this year the fisheries research manager presented testimony, at the Environment and Natural Resources Policy Committee hearing on the sterile grass carp bill, that I have proven is false and misleading. The bill would have allowed me to replace dangerous aquatic herbicides on my fish farm with sterile weed eating fish. Each fish is certified by the USFWS. In response to his false testimony I filed an ethics charge. Fisheries swept the complaint under the rug within a week. It took four requests and six weeks to find this out. Then the fisheries director drafted a letter with the same false and misleading statements for the DNR commissioner to sign.
Now fisheries is harassing me. It started with the denial of a permit by the regional fisheries manager to stock a species of fish native to Minnesota into a pond that the DNR licensed for all Minnesota species in 1996. In 1998 and 2001 the same region manager personally approved my newest ponds for all Minnesota species. Now, the same fisheries manager has begun to search for a reason to void that license. On June 7 I requested that some minor DNR bookkeeping errors on my license be corrected. I'm still waiting. Recently in my absence they came on my farm without notice and took photos. A request for the reason has gone unanswered. The search continues.
The director of fisheries is personally aware of this and is doing nothing to stop the harassment.
How can public employees get away with treating taxpayers like this?
Midwest Fish and Crayfish
For years the Minnesota DNR has been working with John Reynolds, owner of Midwest Fish and Crayfish, and we know him to be a hard-working businessman. But we happen to strongly oppose his proposal to import a potentially hazardous exotic fish species into Minnesota waters. We oppose it because our job is to protect and conserve the fisheries of this state and we believe that grass carp or other non-native species pose a threat to those public resources.
The grass carp Mr. Reynolds wants to bring to Minnesota are assumed to be sterile, but there's no guarantee that they won't reproduce. Grass carp can consume their weight in vegetation in one day. If they got into Minnesota lakes or wetlands they could devastate the native aquatic vegetation found there. We know the risk is low, but the potential ecological havoc is so great that we don't dare risk taking a chance. The state continues to spend millions of dollars to try to control exotic species such as Eurasian water milfoil, zebra mussels, and purple loosestrife that have already gained a foothold. Further, regardless of what sort of certification process was in place, the DNR could not guarantee that all of the grass carp other people would want to bring into the state would be sterile.
As for the permit recently denied to Mr. Reynolds, your readers should know that we have licensed him for over 100 different fish species and that we've licensed many of his fish rearing ponds. But the ponds for which we recently denied a permit are overlooking a flowage just two miles from the Mississippi River. An accident could sent the non-native fish Mr. Reynolds intends to raise in these ponds to the river and eventually the entire upper Mississippi River drainage, and we don't want to pose that threat to public waters.
Finally, we have no knowledge of a DNR employee entering his property without permission and taking photographs. If anyone has evidence that such a transgression has occurred, I would welcome hearing about it.
Ronald D. Payer, director
Fisheries division-St. Paul
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