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Lakes Learning: Promoting lake stewardship

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Our lakes are some of our most precious resources. Especially here in "Lakes Country", we understand the value of enjoying the lakes and the economic value of tourism involving our lakes. So, what is lake stewardship and how do we promote it?

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First of all, stewardship is an attitude. It is the understanding that what we do on land and in the water affects the lake. It is recognition that lakes are vulnerable and that in order to make them thrive, citizens, both individually and collectively, must assume responsibility for their care.

Lake stewardship can be promoted through lake association meetings and publications such as a website or newsletter. At your lake association meeting, you can have an open brainstorming session about goals for the lake. People use lakes in different ways, and may have different goals for enjoyment of the lake. Discussing these goals in an open forum can help people understand each others view points and vision for the lake.

Gaining and understanding of general lake processes and ecology can help people understand what is happening in their lake. Determining the current condition of your own lake can then provide a knowledge base that you can use to protect and restore your lake. After the lake's current condition is determined, associations can monitor water quality each year to learn about seasonal variability and year to year variability. If abrupt changes in water quality occur, they're able to investigate potential causes and respond accordingly.

Lake studies can be costly, and there is outside funding available for lake associations. There is grant funding currently available from Minnesota Waters. The Lake and Stream Conservation Partnership Grant Program provides funding assistance for innovative lake and river groups across the state carrying out shoreland habitat improvement and restoration projects, and/or lake and river inventorying and assessment projects to guide water resource improvement, restoration and management. This grant, however, does not cover water quality monitoring. The deadline for grant applications is September 26, 2008. For more information, you can visit http://www.mnwaters.org.

The Freshwater Society and the Minnesota Pollution Control Agency have put together an excellent Guide to Lake Protection and Management. This guide can be used in understanding your lake and developing a lake management plan. You can obtain this publication at http://www.pca.state.mn.us/water/lakeprotection.html or by calling the Freshwater Society at 952-471-9773.

Banding together as an association and a coalition of lake associations is one of the best ways to share knowledge and understanding about lakes and lake stewardship.

"In the end, we will conserve only what we love; we will love only what we understand; and we will understand only what we have been taught." - Baba Dioum, a Senegalese ecologist.

Enjoy the lakes!

(Moriya Rufer is the Lakes Monitoring Program Coordinator for RMB Environmental Laboratories in Detroit Lakes, 218-846-1465, lakes.rmbel@eot.com.)

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