U.S.S. Badger car ferry at the Red Arrow Beach in Manitowoc. The dune grasses are part of the city of Manitowoc’s restoration of the park to reduce sedimentation and pollution going into Lake Michigan.
Champions of conservation
DNR's Office of the Great Lakes and partners look out for Lake Michigan..
Recent opinion polls indicate Great Lakes protection and restoration programs are supported by approximately 75 percent of Wisconsin voters, and for nearly 10 years, members of the Lake Michigan Stakeholders (LMS) have been a coordinated "Voice for Lake Michigan" by collaborating and networking with other organizations, governmental agencies, non–governmental groups,tribal nations, universities, citizens and property owners to focus on environmental and economic improvements for Lake Michigan.
An important piece of this collaboration includes working with the DNR's Office of the Great Lakes to promote and protect Lake Michigan and the other Great Lakes.
Original organizers of the Lake Michigan Stakeholders held their first meeting in 2005 at Concordia University in Mequon with more than 40 participants representing a wide range of interests. LMS members have varied backgrounds and expertise which facilitates educating and informing members of important issues like Cladophora, fish passage, nutrients and more.
Members engage in diverse innovative restoration initiatives throughout the Lake Michigan basin, including beach improvements, transforming an old golf course into prairie, bird and wildlife habitat (see sidebar story), restoring Centerville Creek and Hika Bay in southern Manitowoc County, and turning urban brownfields into lush, diverse habitat with trails and community centers. Member groups are planning for additional projects as well. An annual survey sent to members helps steer the organization's activities and events.
LMS was instrumental in establishing the first Lake Michigan Day, held Aug. 14 at the University of Wisconsin-Manitowoc's Lakeshore Water Institute. Lake Michigan Day 2014 brought together dozens of stakeholders, policy makers and concerned citizens to engage with one another, highlighting significant opportunities and challenges for continued restoration and protection of Lake Michigan and the broader Great Lakes basin. Participants toured an ongoing restoration of Red Arrow Beach in Manitowoc to stabilize the sand, minimize runoff into Lake Michigan and improve recreational activities.
Lake Michigan Day 2014 also featured the newly formed Lakeshore Water Institute at UW-Manitowoc, serving the lakeshore region both as a tool for educating and engaging youth, and for developing science-based decisions at the local government level. The skills and knowledge attained by the students will better prepare them for further education and for the workplace in both the public and private sectors.
To reward some of these outstanding stakeholder initiatives, an environmental awards program created by one of LMS's partners, the nonprofit Lakeshore Natural Resource Partnership, was expanded to the Wisconsin Lake Michigan basin. Awards were presented to Shawn Graff of the Ozaukee Washington Land Trust for achievements during his 11-year tenure with the organization, and to Tyco Company of Marinette for their community involvement to clean up toxic waste. Organizers plan to move the annual event around the region.
Through strong leadership and by creating a Lake Michigan Day, LMS is continuing to raise awareness and make a difference for Lake Michigan by bringing together strong partners to restore and protect this outstanding resource.
Sherrill Anderson is the regional outreach coordinator for the Lakeshore Natural Resource Partnership.