The Minnesota Invasive Species Advisory Council (MISAC) bestowed Carol Mortensen Invasive Species Management Awards at their virtual Upper Midwest Invasive Species Conference in November.  Bill Grantges, Aquatic Invasive Species (AIS) Coordinator for the Itasca County Soil and Water Conservation District (SWCD), received the 2020 Individual Achievement Award, in recognition of his efforts in managing Itasca County’s aquatic invasive species program.  Bill has been instrumental in making this program a success since its inception in 2014, and in successfully implementing and growing the program each year. 

Bob Dunning, Minnesota Invasive Species Advisory Committee member and Sterns County Agricultural Inspector presents Bill with award.

Bill’s passion, creativity, dedication, and willingness to partner with others have made Itasca County’s AIS program one that is used as a model throughout Minnesota. In addition to a strong public boat access education, inspection, and decontamination program, additional focus areas include a grant program for partners, an awareness and training education program, and an AIS monitoring and control program.  This multifaceted approach is unique to Itasca County, with most Counties focusing on public boat access inspections.  Other Counties often reach out to Bill, in their pursuit to establish these additional programs in their Counties.  Bill has worked with neighboring counties to improve AIS inspection, outreach, and signage at private resort accesses, a gap area in many public programs. He also closely coordinates with lake associations and lakeshore homeowners across the county and empowers them to be part of Itasca County’s AIS program.  One AIS coordinator from another county said, “Bill not only comes up with great ideas; he makes them happen.”

The Itasca County SWCD AIS program is primarily funded by County State Aid funding, provided to Itasca County, with administration delegated from the County to the SWCD.  The Mission of the Itasca County Soil and Water Conservation District (SWCD) is to provide a local organization through which landowners and operators, local units of government and state and federal agencies can cooperate to improve, develop, and conserve soil, water, wildlife, and recreational resources.  The Itasca SWCD employees 7 year around staff and offers services in various natural resource focus areas.  To learn more about the Itasca County SWCD AIS program, and other focus areas, visit their website at or call 218-326-5573.