Identifying Worthwhile Stewardship Ventures

Perhaps one of the easiest ways to identify worthwhile stewardship ventures and opportunities is to evaluate the concept of stewardship at its roots.  The idea of stewardship stems from an ethic that centers around the responsible planning and management of resources, in this case environmental resources.  Lakes of course are just one component of our natural environment but cannot be isolated in their care.  Looking more specifically at environmental stewardship, Wikipedia defines it with terms such as conservation and sustainability.  Further referencing the great Aldo Leopold and the land ethic concept.  For those of you who have never read the Sand County Almanac, what I consider and environmentalists staple, I highly recommend it.  If it does not stir some emotion of an intertwined environmental bioverse nothing will.

Back to the to point behind this blog post.  We all have places to go, people to see, politics to complain about.  Of all the ventures we may choose to support on a daily, weekly, or monthly basis, how well do we connect with our water resources or environmental stewardship of lake, streams and watersheds?  It’s a difficult question to answer for some.  As a consultant I attend a number or watershed and lake meetings, sit on numerous boards, committees or the like.  You begin to see a lot of the same faces.  The ones you see time and again work well with each other, smile and greet each other, and have bought into the process of these grass roots programs a long time ago, nor

The new faces (or the one you may not recognize) are often their to complain about something not being done, are in unfamiliar territory, or are ignorant to any sort of working processes.  If the ‘workgroup’ is lucky, with the right words there may be a convert inside this individual.

So while stewardship efforts may have a skeletal framework with agency framing, the backbone and muscle of the groups reside in the individuals who comprise them.  These grass roots effort groups provide a number of stewardship efforts and opportunities for anyone who is willing to sit down and listen.  So since you are reading this blog, we assume you are interested in one of a few things:

  1. Your local lake.  Either its long term care or its immediate needs.  You lack a local lake group or are unsure of the capability of your local group to function properly.
  2. Your local water body.  This may take the form or a common water that you periodically frequent or maybe the creek your kids play in nearby.  You have seen something that bothers your and want to know where to go with questions.
  3. HOA commitments.  HOA boards are often ill prepared for dealing with open space issues and need some sort of homing beacon.
  4. Park districts, NFP patrons, or other open space agencies.  Open to new ideas, networking ideas.

At this point we do know from independent surveys that people do believe that the internet is the is the best resource for information which is not to say people are misinformed or under informed, but let’s just say you get back what you put into it.  This is likely to be a future blog piece. 

In northeastern Illinois where stewardship groups are somewhat dense, the structure consists of one or more of the following which can often overlap with the geographic interests:

  1. Watershed Groups:  If you need to find the watershed that your local waterbody of interest resides in, the easiest resource is the EPA Surf your watershed webpage.  It can be down for maintenance routinely, so check back if you cannot find it.  Additionally we are trying to create a repository here as well.  If you do not know what a watershed is, search this blog and there are descriptive blog posts as well.  The internet is also a somewhat viable source.  Just as always with the internet.  All information should be check against more than one source.
  2. Lake or waterbody group: Some lakes, creeks, and streams have their own advocacy groups.  If you are having trouble finding one specifically.  Please contact ILMA and we’ll do our best to help you out.  Sometimes it’s difficult to know where to start.  For example in Lake Zurich, IL, there is the local lake group which is responsible for the management of the lake itself.  The local sustainability group is known as the Ancient Oaks Foundation.
  3. Regional advocacy focus groups.  Examples of these could be the Conservation Foundation, Openlands, Barrington Area Conservation Trust (BACT), Chicago Wilderness are only a few examples.  Each of these groups may represent a slightly different geographic range or focus, but each have worthwhile efforts.

The best fit may be more than one group depending on your interest level.  Some have found it good to hear a different voice from time to time.  Visiting a alternative group or neighboring group can also be enlightening.  Prior to forming the 9 Lakes Watershed Group, several of the lakes belonged to the 4 Lakes Initiative. Some of the best interaction the group felt was the interaction with the other lake groups and the different approaches they each took to solve intermediate lake problems.

Keep the following things in mind.  Lake groups tend to focus on in-lake problems.  Watershed groups look from the top down to solve water quality problems.  Lake groups can sometimes become lake-centric meaning they don’t realize that the problems they are treating can stem from the watershed.  Throwing money at a in-lake result that begins at the watershed level can be like throwing away money.

Regional groups while looking at a more watershed level approach also tend to integrate policy issues which is important when looking at institutional change that can have a ripple down effect.  These policy practices can provide changes which when integrated with land use policy.  Once in place these policies can provide land development and local government officials the needed tools to enact change at a watershed scale.  Watershed level changes impact the quality of our surface waters.  Therefore, you can see how these levels interact.

There is a lot of knowledge to be gained by interacting at any and all levels.  Of course the interaction also requires time.  Above all is the Illinois Lakes Management Association (ILMA) which works to network our membership with all these groups at our annual conference, POD sessions, and web pages (this blog, our facebook page, and our general internet page).

You may find a lot of familiar faces operating at several different levels.  This is not by accident, but often by design.  This includes ILMA and its partner groups.  We encourage interaction at as many of these levels as possible, including attending available conferences or workshops these groups may have to offer.  These may also offer exposure to vendors and additional expertise.

Look no further than the upcoming ILMA Annual Conference (March 22-24), the Fox River Summit in Burlington, WI (March 23rd) for some of these opportunities.

~p0sted by Admin

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