We see, both in the news and off the end of our docks, threats to the lakes we love. Poor shoreline development allows nutrients to run into our lakes and destroys habitat for fish and nesting loons. Boaters continue to spread Aquatic Invasive Species, (AIS). Agricultural runoff degrades water and drives larger and more frequent algae blooms. But we can do something to counter these threats.
On Nov. 16th, Give to the Max Day, Minnesota Lakes and Rivers will invite you to take direct, concrete actions to reverse each of these trends.. Together we can protect the lake you love and in which you have invested so much of your time, money and emotion.
Coordinated, statewide efforts are necessary to tackle these issues effectively. MN Lakes & Rivers Advocates knows that real solutions require on-the-ground efforts. All three of the following programs address one of the above lake threats, 1) Loss of shoreline habitat, 2) Spread of aquatic invasive species, 3) Promote farming practices that prevent runoff. Each builds and deepens partnerships among lake shore owners, key local stakeholders like farmers or landscapers, and county and state agencies. On Nov 16th, during Give to the Max Day we will be inviting you to join in these efforts to protect the lakes we love.
The Lake Steward Program
The Lake Steward program supports and incentivises lake shore owners to protect and/or restore healthy and vibrant shorelines. As owners of the land, individual property owners have an incentive to protect the lake by allowing native plants to form a buffer to prevent runoff, maintain a working septic system, control runoff from roofs, patio and driveways. Lake Steward supports owners as they take these actions.
The Lake Steward Program originated on the Gull Chain of Lakes. In 2021 MLR worked with them to scale Lake Steward into a statewide movement. Today over 30 lake associations have Lake Steward programs and over 8 miles of shoreline have been protected or restored.
Property owners take a brief “Are you a lake steward” quiz online. A volunteer from each lake association follows up with a site visit. They use an easy online evaluation tool developed in conjunction with the DNR to determine whether the property meets Lake Steward criteria. If not, the volunteer can work with the owner to provide resources to restore their shore. Owners that meet the criteria are awarded a beautiful Lake Steward. Past experience with this program has shown that when one property owner displays their Lake Steward sign on the end of their dock, neighbors tend to follow suit and pursue the award themselves-thus slowly shifting our culture’s stewardship ethic and idea of what constitutes a ‘beautiful’ property.
In just its third year, Lake Steward has already protected over 8 miles of shoreline and prevented tens of thousands of nutrients from entering our lakes.
WCCO produced a great segment on Lake Steward. You can watch it here.
Stop Starry is a program aimed at stopping the spread of starry stonewort. Most AIS spread occurs when boaters do not take the proper steps to decontaminate their boats as they switch from an infested lake to a pristine one. Research from Cornell University and replicated by MN Sea Grant and WI DNR confirms that while the vast majority of boaters know the steps they need to take to effectively Clean, Drain and Dry to prevent spread, less than half take all of those actions. The reason they gave is a lack of tools at the access where they need them.
Starry stonewort, a grassy looking macro-algae that forms in thick mats on a lake’s surface, is perhaps the most destructive. It can severely limit recreational use and outcompetes native plants and wildlife. Starry stonewort is extremely expensive and difficult to manage if not discovered early. Lake Koronis, the first MN lake to be infested in 2015-, spends $170,000 annually just to maintain recreational access to the lake.
The most successful way to stop AIS is by making sure it never gets the chance to infest a body of water in the first place. MLR’s Stop Starry program is a containment strategy. Stop Starry provides boat cleaning equipment at the accesses of the 25 lakes currently infested with starry stonewort. We use a civic organizing model to and support the use of that equipment with education, communication and organizing a ‘civic infrastructure’ to protect and promote water quality.
Up the Creek Meats
Up the Creek Meats promotes water quality by connecting farmers that use practices that prevent erosion and runoff. Many of the most common agricultural practices, plowing, use of pesticides, herbicides and fungicides degrade soil health and damage the soil’s ability to absorb water. Intensive agricultural practices cause soil and chemicals end up flowing into local lakes and rivers causing siltation and an overabundance of aquatic plants and algae blooms..
Up the Creek Meats practices, on the other hand, increases the water infiltration rate of soils. As soil health improves runoff pollution and erosion decline. Biodiversity of both soil organisms and birds and animals also rise.
Up the Creek Meats producers call themselves “soil farmers” because their focus is on building soil health and productivity, not on annual yields. As soil health improves, crop and animal yields can approach or even exceed the yields of higher impact farming practices.
Up the Creek Meats finds these farmers and connects them with local lake shore owners within that watershed. Farmers can focus on farming instead of marketing and buyers can have the benefit of knowing that their purchases are helping to protect their local aquatic ecosystems.
On November 16th during Give to the Max Day, take action to help protect the lake you love. These three programs are high impact on-the-ground actions. As they scale up, with your help, they will have a profound impact on water quality statewide.