Mille Lacs Lake Watershed Management Group hosted their Healthy Land, Healthy Lake 2021 exhibit at McQuoid’s Resort in Isle on Saturday, September 18. Watch a demonstration of the new, portable boat cleaning stations the Mille Lacs Band DNR plans to make available in some public areas, and learn about programs that promote and enjoy the health of the catchment area and the communities that live in it.
Participants in COMPASS, a land stewardship project that supports lakefront property owners who, as member Margaret Vos said, “want to take responsibility for the lakefront to protect it and restore it to a more natural state”. People got together to share their success stories and discuss how to deal with the ongoing challenges. COMPASS promotes the use of rain barrels, the development of lakeshore buffer zones with native plants and the creation of rain gardens to catch runoff and filter it on the way to the lake.
Some COMPASS members, like John Pearson, marked an area 20 feet from the shore and, as he said, “I just stopped mowing.” Some, like Guy Haglund, have worked to keep invasive crops without the Control the use of herbicides that could harm the wildlife that inhabit and visit his property. Others, like Margaret Vos and her husband, planted for “constant bloom” and to preserve the view of the lake. Still others, like Jack and Marilyn Pearson, have planted a number of beautiful rain gardens in strategic areas of their Smith Lake property.
All have reaped the benefits of their labor – witnessing decreased erosion and an increase in the number of birds and butterflies enjoying their shores. Jake Janski, chairman of the Mille Lacs Soil and Water Conservation District, stated that native plants hold the coast because of their extensive root systems (four to five meters deep versus two to six inches for turf grass). Native plantings take time to establish. Marilyn and Jack Anderson remembered for the first two years of their project asking themselves, “Why did we do this?” Now Marilyn says, “It’s just beautiful.”
Susan Shaw, District Soil and Water Conservation Administrator for Mille Lacs, reminds the group, “Remember the Ugly Duckling.”
Part of the discussion was Carrie Ruud, a Minnesota Senator who represents District 10 and chairs the Environmental and Natural Resource Policy and Legacy Finance Committee. She listened to participants’ stories and encouraged the group to publicize their achievements, in what she put, “We can show voters that we are [Legacy] Money wisely to renew it. “
Members of the Mille Lacs Lake Watershed Group also hosted a tackle swap table where people could bring their old, lead-based tackle and get a sample of lead-free tackles courtesy of the Minnesota Pollution Control Agency’s Get the Lead Out campaign.
Lead is poisonous to many water birds such as loons, eagles and swans, which sometimes eat fish with their tackle or tackle attached. It is a particular problem for loons who swallow pebbles as chippings to aid their digestive process and who often mistake lead platinum for these pebbles.
Get the Lead Out is funded by post-oil settlement funds from BP Deepwater Horizon 2010. Since the Gulf of Mexico is a primary wintering site for the loons who make our Minnesota lakes their home and the population has been affected by the pollution, the MPCA received funding for the implementation of this loon protection program. The lead dishes collected are weighed, reported to the MPCA and taken to hazardous waste landfills.
The Mille Lacs Lake catchment area includes portions of Mille Lacs County, Aitkin County, Crow Wing County, and the tribal areas of the Mille Lacs Band of Ojibwe. The Healthy Land, Healthy Lake Expo is a great opportunity to meet people who are working to make this area a healthier, more beautiful, and livelier place for us to all live and enjoy.