MIRS-Bills Would Up Invasive Transport Penalties

A package of bills introduced in the Senate this week aims to crack down on folks transporting aquatic invasive species. 
"What we're trying to do is get it across to the people that are smuggling invasives, mostly to Toronto, that if in fact if they do that, they get caught, we're taking their licenses away. We're taking their trucks. It's just going to be so punitive that it's not gonna pay to do it," said Sen. Mike KOWALL (R-White Lake), who is leading the package. 
It's an eight-bill package, from  SB 0795 to  SB 0802. 
SB 0795 would establish a felony for bringing in aquatic invasive species. For a violation involving a prohibited non-aquatic species, the current two-year, $20,000 felony would stand. 
But should this law pass there would be a higher penalty for a violation involving an aquatic prohibited species: a $100,000, three-year felony. 
Other bills in the package include penalties such as suspension of fishing licenses and commercial motor vehicle licenses. 
Patty BIRKHOLZ, West Michigan Director at the Michigan League of Conservation Voters (MLCV), said the legislation was a good step. 
"Any time we can do anything to increase the penalties dealing with invasive species to keep them out of our water is a positive thing," Birkholz said.
She pointed to the potential consequences aquatic invasives could cause. 
"Sometimes people forget that they not only threaten the ecology . . . they also threaten our economy. What is pure Michigan about? It's about our natural resources," Birkholz said. 
Sen. Arlan MEEKHOF (R-West Olive), sponsor of  SB 0796, said that the measures would only apply to people who were knowingly transporting invasive species. 
"What it simply does is penalizing somebody if they knowingly transport invasive species. So it's not for if one just happens to be on your boat trailer and you're not intentionally doing it," Meekhof said. 
Kowall said that when it comes to the trafficking of invasive species, being on an international border "increases it dramatically." 
The bills have been referred to the Senate Committee on Natural Resources, Environment and Great Lakes.