Tuesday, April 21, 2009

Lake property owners “turn back the clock” to protect clean water, habitat

BARNES, Wis. – Carol LeBreck and other property owners along Bony Lake in Bayfield County decided they needed to turn back the clock if future generations were to enjoy the lake’s clean water and wildlife as they have.

“We realized we were responsible for leaving a healthy lake legacy for our children and grandchildren, and the best way to do that was to partner with our neighbors and local government to remove unsightly riprap and other lake-unfriendly things, and to replace them with the native plants and trees that were here before us,” said LeBreck, a member of the Wisconsin Association of Lakes and Bayfield County Lakes Forum [www.bayfieldcountylakes.org] (eixt DNR) who spearheaded a project that’s one of the largest habitat restoration efforts in Wisconsin.

So LeBreck and other neighbors have spent the last few years giving this northern Wisconsin lake a makeover to appear 125 years younger, much like it did before logging and settlement substantially changed the landscape.

They’ve been removing rip-rap and old sheds and replacing them with native plants and trees that stabilize their shorelines and filter runoff before it enters the lake. They’ve selectively cut upland trees and transported them into the shallow water to create habitat for fish and other lake wildlife, and they’ve installed rain gardens, rain barrels and berms to soak up the rain and filter out pollutants before runoff enters their lake.

And the property owners committed their shorelines to conservation use in perpetuity on the deeds. “These conservation agreements assure the long-term investment of state grant dollars will provide habitat benefits for generations to come,” says Department of Natural Resources Lake and River Management Coordinator Pamela Toshner.

Project a “full team effort” launched in 2006

While shoreline restorations have historically been implemented on individual parcels, the concept of lakewide or whole-lake restoration work is relatively new. This project began a few years ago with a full team effort.

During summer 2006, lake property owners began meeting with the Bayfield County Land and Water Conservation Department, Sigurd Olson Environmental Institute, and DNR officials. The property owners wanted to protect the 191-acre lake from increasing water quality and habitat stressors such as development and recreational use.

LeBreck led the partner team and wrote a successful DNR Lake Protection Shoreland Restoration Grant that provided $100,000 over three years. There was an additional $45,000 in cash and in-kind matching funds available and dedicated for the project.

Working together, the team has completed six shoreline restorations and installed the rain gardens, berms, and rain barrels. They quintupled woody habitat, improving nursery and feeding areas for young fish and benefiting birds, turtles, frogs, and other wildlife. They also used the funding to educate the local community about the lake’s water quality, fishery, and historic conditions. Local and national media have picked up on the Bony Lake story with features in area newspapers, Cabin Life magazine, and outdoor television programs.

Like many waterways in northern Wisconsin, Bony Lake has excellent water quality. The Bony Lake project is a model for similar lakes where water quality protection and habitat restoration are the primary management goals.

“Project success is built upon citizens contributing their talents and skills to drive the effort and share their stories with neighbors and surrounding communities,” Toshner said. “Perhaps the greatest gauge of success is that we’re hearing from property owners along other lakes who want to follow the lead of the Bony Lake folks.”

FOR MORE INFORMATION CONTACT: Pamela Toshner (715) 635-4073 and Carol LeBreck (715) 425-6904

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