“Adopt a harbor” program launches on Leech Lake

Lake advocates working with resorts to prevent starry stonewort spread.

An important aspect of dealing with aquatic invasive species is monitoring their prevalence or absence in as many lakes and streams as possible.  In the summer of 2022 two volunteers and the Cass County AIS technician took on that task: sampling nearly 40 resort harbors and eight public launch ramps on Leech Lake alone. Their conclusion: substantially more people needed to be involved!  Hence, the concept of “Adopt a Harbor” was born. 

This “grass-roots” conservation program called Adopt-A-Harbor was created to enable resorts owners and people who own lakeshore to determine what AIS are in their harbor areas. Simply, the adoptees of resort and property owners’ associations’ harbors are asked and trained to conduct surveys for aquatic invasive species 2-4 times annually. For training, they viewed online videos, received plant guides, and had one-on-one coaching. Plus, they were given basic tools for pulling up and examining vegetation. 

In the summer of 2023, twelve resort owners on Leech Lake became Adopt-A-Harbor partners. Shoreland home owners, also concerned about the health of their lake, have shown a good response to the program, too. “Resort owners usually inquire what their containment and prevention options are,” said Cass AIS Lake Technician Steve Henry, “And they are willing to go the extra mile in keeping their lakes healthy.”

In Cass County, the program is slowing building mainly by word of mouth. Henry said, “For next year we are hoping to incorporate a treatment and research project through which we could offer our partners assistance in managing any invasive aquatic plant species discovered, and use those sites to research which options are the most effective at managing the nuisance effects of these invasive species.”

Monitoring your lake to detect any new invasive species is extremely valuable, he added. While eradicating species is extremely difficult, invasive species can often be contained with rapid response efforts. While many lakes have their own early detection programs, the Adopt-A-Harbor detection and reporting program can be a useful addition for groups statewide.  For more information, contact Steve Henry, Cass County AIS, at steve.henry@casscountymn.gov or 218-547-7324.