The lakes are the crown jewels of the Northwoods. Their beauty and bounty are a treasure, cherished by those who live among them and those who travel great distances to experience them. The waters of northern Wisconsin are the definition of pristine and there are hundreds of hard working people who volunteer their time and efforts to ensure they remain so.
Those people are the members of the hundreds of lake organizations throughout Lakeland who keep a diligent eye on the lakes.
They spend countless hours in meetings, planning and coordinating protective measures for the health of the lakes they serve. They help out in monitoring and testing the water. They write grants. They put up signage. They make sure boats are cleaned at the boat landings. In short, they do everything they possibly can, with very limited budgets, to ensure that their lakes remain healthy.
And while lake organizations, from associations to districts, all deal with their own distinct body of water, their battles are all very similar.
Therefore the 2019 Vilas County Lakes Conservation Partners meeting, recently held in Boulder Junction, proved to be a great benefit to all in attendance, because it gave the different organizations a chance to bounce ideas off of each other in regards to issues they are all dealing with.
Hosted by Catherine Higley, lakes specialist with the Vilas County Land and Water Conservation Department, the meeting was designed to present and share information on lake conservation.
There were representatives from Mann Lake, Big Lake, the Boulder Lake Advancement Association, the Buckatabon Lakes Association, the Boulder Junction Lakes Alliance, the Manitowish Waters Lake Association, the Eagle River Chain of Lakes Association, the Turtle Lakes Chain Association, The Vilas County Lakes and Rivers Association, the Winchester Town Lakes Committee, the Friends of Birch Lake, and the Black Oak Preservation Foundation.
And they were all given a chance to report on what their respective organizations are up to.
Most are involved in some stage of battle with Aquatic Invasive Species (AIS), and the various organizations shared their histories with AIS as well as their current philosophies and tactics used to combat it.
They discussed how they each implement the Clean Boats/Clean Waters boat landing monitoring program. They talked about their various experiences with herbicide treatments for AIS. Some spoke about hand-pulling Eurasian water milfoil while others, with larger infestations, talked about the Diver Assisted Suction Harvest (DASH) method.
The organizations discussed grants and websites and how they raise funds and membership.
They talked about the hardships they’ve faced and their victories.
The Vilas County Lakes Conservation Partners meeting was an extremely valuable workshop that allowed the participating organizations to learn how others tackle similar problems.
In addition to an open forum, there were a number of lake professionals on hand.
Susan Knight, from Trout Lake Station, gave a presentation on weevils combatting Eurasian water milfoil. Emily Heald, from the North Lakeland Discovery Center, reported on the multitude of north Lakeland lakes she is AIS coordinator for. Sandy Wickman from UW-Extension gave a detailed presentation on citizen lake monitoring. Becca Klemme, from UW-Oshkosh, explained the decontamination unit involved with the Clean Boats/Clean Waters program. Tim Campbell, a statewide AIS outreach specialist with UW-Extension, explained the finer points of effective boat landing signage. Quita Sheehan, conservation specialist with Vilas County Land and Water Conservation spoke about the importance of wetlands, and Catherine Higley recapped the work done in Vilas County by the Vilas County Land and Water Conservation Department.
It should be noted that the latter is a gold mine of expertise, information, and direction when it comes to anything to do with lakes. The Vilas County Land and Water Conservation department can advise on everything from grant writing to shoreline assessments and restorations to AIS prevention and control. They are an important hub in Vilas county’s lake community.
All the information presented throughout the Lakes Conservation Partners meeting was useful and relevant to the plights of the various lake organizations present.
But the meeting itself also proved how much help there is out there for lake organizations, especially for those that are just starting out or lakes that aren’t organized at all.
Not only are there local experts available to help, but the lake associations and districts that currently exist proved to be extremely welcoming to questions and inquiries from newer lake organizations because they themselves have been in that position of just starting out.
It’s the same with AIS battles. The organizations that have been fighting it for years were more than willing to share insight with those who have made their first discoveries of it on their lake.
Battling something like AIS on a lake is daunting enough. Trying to figure it out on your own is almost impossible.
Thankfully, in Vilas County, as displayed at the Lakes Conservation Partners meeting, when it comes to the health of a lake, nobody is on their own.
Jacob Friede may be reached at [email protected] or [email protected]