If you are a cottage-owner, you should know about the Love Your Lake program. A partnership between CWF and Watersheds Canada, it has already helped naturalize shorelines — protecting freshwater habitat and ecosystems — at more than 100 recreational properties in Ontario. And the program is expanding. David Browne, CWF’s director of conservation, explains.
How did the Love Your Lake program get started? It all began about four years ago. CWF was looking to create a lake-stewardship project. Watersheds Canada had been running a program for some time and was looking for a partner to make the program bigger. They came in and gave us a presentation. We liked what we heard, and it started from there. We developed a program aimed at lakes people use for recreation and how to keep them healthy.
What do you see as the key issue Love Your Lake seeks to address? Canada has huge freshwater resources, and we care about all of them. But with this program, we really want to focus on areas where there’s lots of recreational use, which means there’s also considerable development. Ultimately, we want Love Your Lake to address all of the issues facing lakes used for recreation — invasive species, water quality, shoreline development, the sustainability of recreation fisheries, and issues around water levels and water flow. To date, we’ve focused mostly on the shoreline naturalization piece of the puzzle. It’s an import subject, especially when it comes to protecting habitat that’s vital for recreational fish species.
What is the main face of the program at this time? We’ve built a program-in-a-box for lake associations and local lake-conservation groups. It give these groups tools to engage with landowners and help them understand what they can do protect their lake. It deals with everything from managing septic systems and constructing docks to maintaining naturalized shorelines and using best practices in how you develop your property.
The main thing we offer is the know-how on how conduct property assessments, and you can find a lot of the material at loveyourlake.ca. The goal is to give landowners a sense of what they can do on their property to benefit the lake. We also provide some funding to groups that join the program to help them develop customized messaging to each of the property owners. We also create a kind of forum where the conversation will happen. That’s important because, while the actions of a single landowner may not have a huge impact, the cumulative effects of many people can have serious consequences for lake chemistry and freshwater habitat.
You also train people to do shoreline assessments, is that right? Yes. Absolutely. We found that lake associations get excited about this program and will hire summer students to go out and do property-by-property shoreline assessments. We provide training for these people so that they can do the assessments and enter the information into a database we’ve created. That allows us to generate reports for each landowner and an overarching report on the state of a lake’s shoreline. The local associations can then use that report to develop plans for their lake or communicate with, say, the provincial government about particular issues.
When Love Your Lake launched, it was focused on the Rideau Lakes area in Ontario. But it has expanded. Where are you now? We’ve expanded quite a ways in Ontario. We’re all the way from the Sudbury and Georgian Bay area, all the way over the Ottawa area. We’ll be going up the Sault St. Marie area next year. At the same, we’re hoping to expand to Manitoba and Saskatchewan. Eventually, we hope to see Love Your Lake implemented at recreational lakes all over Canada.