Passion and commitment of volunteers help protect lakes in western Vilas County

Emily Heald, Water Program Coordinator for the North Lakeland Discovery Center

In 2017, almost 200 volunteers in western Vilas County put in about 1,500 hours of time spent monitoring for aquatic invasive species, reviewing management plans, completing Clean Boats Clean Waters surveys at boat landings, and monitoring lake levels. It has all been a part of the 7-year partnership between the North Lakeland Discovery Center (a nonprofit environmental education center) and nearby towns of Manitowish Waters, Boulder Junction, and Winchester, as well as the Manitowish Waters Lakes Association and Winchester Town Lakes Committee. Our work consists of obtaining WDNR funding to create management plans on 24 lakes (spread over the years), with each project utilizing town financial donations and volunteer support for the matching funds required by the grants.

A proud group of folks from Winchester celebrate the CBCW program at a boat landing barbeque.

“We are hopeful that these projects will give us the knowledge and tools to ensure that we can prevent any potential invasive species contamination in the future through education and diligence by our lake property owners, as well as the recreational boaters and fishermen who visit the lakes.” (Gary Engstrom, Rock Lake)

For each project, multiple AIS identification trainings are held to give volunteers the skills to go out on their own time to monitor their lakes for AIS. Each project also holds at least two meetings open to riparian owners where results of studies are presented, and attendees learn about lake ecology.

We are creating a culture with lake property owners to be aware of, and routinely monitor, their lake and its environs.”(Rolf Ethun, Hiawatha Lake)

Some volunteers felt they were born into these projects from living on lakes their whole lives, while others join the cause through lake associations, after retirement, or by hearing about it through friends. However the sparked interest occurs, all volunteers overwhelmingly agree that it is “exciting and rewarding to see all the townships and lake associations work together” (Karen Dixon, Manitowish River) and “to see how everyone in the community has pulled together to solve the AIS problem” (Bob Becker, President of Manitowish Waters Lakes Association).

A lesson learned from this partnership? A little education can go a long way in “turning dock-loungers into caring citizen scientists-some a little and others a great deal” (Rolf Ethun, Hiawatha Lake).

Thank you to ALL of the volunteers who work together on these projects protect lakes and rivers.

Now, I’m hoping that working on invasive species issues I might be able to help leave an area be in better shape than I found it” (Greg Holt, Benson Lake).

Volunteers Al and Paul endure freezing temperature to monitor lake levels.


About timcampbell

AIS communications specialist for UW-Extension and WDNR.
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