Groundbreaking Report Finds Lake Associations Contribute More Than $6.25 Million and 1.2 Million Hours of Work Annually in Lake Preservation and Management — Feel Shut Out on Environmental Policy Making and Decisions
MOORHEAD/MINNEAPOLIS — October 2, 2017 — A newly released, first-of-its-kind study completed over the summer of 2017 has found that lake associations across Minnesota perform critically important roles in protecting Minnesota’s waters through significant voluntary financial contributions, manual labor, water quality testing, aquatic invasive species (AIS) prevention, and community education and outreach — while feeling shut out and disconnected to the state’s policy- and decision-making processes at the Department of Natural Resources (DNR) and other units of government.
The study, “Minnesota’s Lake Associations: Who they are and what they do,” was conducted by researchers at Concordia College, Moorhead, on behalf of Minnesota Lakes and Rivers Advocates (MLR), a non-profit organization with members statewide that is based in the Twin Cities. The research study was funded by a small grant from MLR, with matched funding provided by Concordia College’s Office of Undergraduate Research. The full study is available on MLR’s website at www.mnlakesandrivers.org.
Key findings from the study include:
? Collectively, the 500+ Minnesota lake associations donate about $6.25 million, annually, to the care of Minnesota’s lakes.
? Collectively, the 500+ lake associations in Minnesota contribute about 1.2 million volunteer hours annually to lake conservation activities, including AIS inspection, attendance of meetings, water quality testing, and community education/outreach activities.
? The top 3 concerns of lake associations in Minnesota are: AIS, overall water quality, and runoff control.
? Most respondents agree or strongly agree that their associations face hurdles in becoming more engaged in lake conservation activities.
? The top 3 challenges that Minnesota’s lake associations face as they work on achieving their goals are: Inadequate member participation (i.e. the needs far exceed the available human capital), feel that they are not being heard/taken seriously by the DNR, and the aging population of lake property owners.
? Most respondents do not agree that their lake associations are authentically included in the lake planning process.
? Most respondents do not feel that their lake associations have real authority over the lake.
? Most respondents do not think that the DNR has sufficient lake management policies in place.
“The research demonstrates how collectively Minnesota’s lake association members are an underutilized and under-appreciated major asset in the management of our natural water
resources,” says Jeff Forester, Executive Director of Minnesota Lakes and Rivers Advocates. “The study also suggests a solution strategy. By building a large grassroots base of lake people,” said Forester, “we will create the climate for change, and work to include local lake association voices in the decision making process.”
“We are grateful to Concordia College for its diligence and scientific methodology and statistical analysis, especially the leadership team of Michelle Marko, Co-director of Environmental Studies in the Biology Department, and Mona Ibrahim in the Psychology Department,” Forester continues. “We look forward to leveraging these findings with local officials, other lake associations, government agencies like the DNR and state legislators.”
Said Dr. Marko, “There is much work to be done to protect and preserve this valuable resource. Lake Association members can be important partners in lake preservation.,” Dr. Ibrahim added, “Up to now, the responsibility of lake maintenance has been delegated to various state and county governmental units such as the Department of Natural Resources, Watershed Districts, cities and counties. Typically, these units perform quality work in preserving lakes and rivers. However, they lack the time and funding to maintain a presence on every lake in Minnesota on a daily basis and that’s where lake associations prove most effective.”
“Lakes are complex ecosystems with dynamic problems that often have no clear-cut solutions. The ‘on-the-ground’ knowledge and experience of lake association members can help with understanding these problems and lead to better resolutions.” Marko adds, ‘Ultimately, the information gained from this study can help facilitate more collaboration and communication between various Minnesota government entities and lake associations in better managing issues like aquatic invasive species and water quality.”
Dr. Ibrahim said, “There are 500 plus lake associations active in the land of 10,000 lakes. For this study, a total of 453 individuals from 407 different lake associations in Minnesota were invited to complete an online survey. More than half — 55% — participated in the study. Respondents represented 186 different lake associations across Minnesota.”
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