It's the season for giving, and if you're like me you are still chasing down a few last-minute presents for friends and family.
In my travels around town I remembered something I heard at last fall's Vilas County Lakes Partnership meeting. A lake association leader there reported that he had asked his members to make it a point to do one thing during the year for the lake's benefit.
So I wondered: Is it possible to give a lake a Christmas present? And yes, it most certainly is. Not a new smartphone, of course; not a coffee maker or an electric drill. No, we'd be talking about some kind of action to be taken during the year ahead. If you prefer, you could call this not a Christmas gift but a New Year's resolution.
Many of us already give a lot to our lakes in money, time and expertise, but we could always do one thing more. So what might that one thing be? Here are some obvious possibilities.
If you're not a member of your lake association, join. If you're already a member, recruit a neighbor into the fold. The lake association is an essential resource for your lake's protection and improvement. There's much to be done; more hands make lighter work.
Create a buffer strip along your shoreline to capture runoff and limit the flow of nutrients to the water. You can create a buffer (ideally 30 or more feet from the shoreline inland) just by sparing the mower and letting the grass and wildflowers grow. Or you can do a more elaborate landscape of native plantings. Either way, this is the best gift you can give your lake.
Attend an educational event, such as the Wisconsin Lakes Convention in April in Stevens Point. There you can learn a lot about lake stewardship and meet many great people who dedicate time to making their lakes better.
Get a septic system inspection from a local professional. Make sure your personal wastewater treatment unit is working the way it should so that you're not feeding pollutants into the lake. If the inspection finds an issue, get it taken care of.
Switch from lead fishing tackle (like jigs and split shot) to one of the non-toxic alternatives. Discarded or lost lead items are known to poison loons who fish them off the lake bottom. The non-toxics cost more, but their benefits are worth the price.
Volunteer. Help out at your association annual meeting or picnic. Get involved in a lake clean-up. Scout your lake for invasive species. Your association members will be glad to suggest where you can lend a hand.
Take a course to become a knowledgeable Clean Boats Clean Waters inspector. Then sign up for a shift or two inspecting boats at your lake's public landing. You'll be doing your part to protect against invasive species.
Those are just a few ideas. You're free to come up with your own. Just doing one thing can seem trivial, but if everybody does just one thing, the impact is multiplied. Best wishes to you during the coming holiday season.
Ted Rulseh resides on Birch Lake in Harshaw and is an advocate for lake protection and improvement. His Lakeland Times and Northwoods River News columns are the basis for a book, "A Lakeside Companion," published by The University of Wisconsin Press. Ted may be reached at firstname.lastname@example.org.
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