Mark Clairmont | MuskokaTODAY.com
BRACEBRIDGE — Climate action is taking place in Muskoka.
While climate protesters were marching on his office last Friday, MPP Norm Miller was learning about a year-old effort by landowners and lake associations to protect local lakes.
Miller, whose family once owned Patteron-Kaye Lodge in Bracebridge, was joined by Muskoka District Chair John Klinck and Ontario Trillium Foundation (OTF) grant review team member Patricia Arney.
They heard about a new ecolabel program called Blue Lakes, which recognized excellence in stewarding precious limited aquatic resources, says a release from grant recipient Land Between.
They received a 12-month SEED grant from the OTF in 2018 to shape and test the program. The pilot year concludes in October and they say they have had some promising results.
“Muskoka’ s lakes are the heart and soul of Muskoka,” said Miller in the release.
“While many of us greatly enjoy them, it is important that we recognize that our presence on these lakes has an impact on the whole ecosystem. By being conscious of our actions and making responsible decisions surrounding our use and enjoyment of these lakes, we can make sure that their inherent value is protected, ensuring that many generations to come will also be able to enjoy them.”
He said: “I am pleased to see this collaborative effort, headed by The Land Between charity and Watersheds Canada, actively engaging residents and visitors alike in environmental stewardship. I commend everyone for their hard work and dedication.”
The Blue Lakes steering committee represents 50 lakes from Muskoka and municipalities across the region, as well as experts from the lead agency of The Land Between charity, and also Watersheds Canada, University of Ontario Institute of Technology and Trent University.
The group leads the development of many program features, provided review, and helped to pilot the program across the region.
It samples more than 350 lake community landowners across the region to estimate the need and desire for the program and to find out how the program may fare if launched fully.
“The result of this year’s research and experience has shown us that there is a strong need and desire for the program across most lake associations,” said Leora Berman, COO and Founder of The Land Between charity and The Blue Lakes Program.
“This is because the Blue Lakes program has the potential to create shared values across lake communities and protect the environment and resources that we love, and all while buttressing property values.”
She said the Blue Lakes program is based on the well-established Blue Flag program, which is an ecolabel provided to marinas and beaches around the world to recognize their environmental stewardship.
An ecolabel is a “seal” or label that assists the market to identify products or services as being less harmful to the environment than others. Ecolabels help consumers make environmentally responsible choices and encourages improvements and sets standards. The Blue Flag program began 1987 and 40 years later it has been adopted by more than 3000 beaches and marinas in 36 countries.
Blue Lakes, like Blue Flag, is a voluntary program that seeks to balance recreation with conservation.
The Blue Lakes, however focuses entirely on behaviours and creates a standard of excellence for individuals to strive for.
The Blue Lakes ecolabel program provides a template for action and education. It is a label and a portfolio of tools, resources, and activities that can be tailored to each lake’s needs. For instance, the program provides educational opportunities, forums, and in-kind support for naturalization or lake-wide projects to improve lake health. The program also provides access to a comprehensive database and app that tracks lake health.
Lakes are the source of our wealth and our health. Our actions determine whether lakes will thrive or even rebound from Climate Change effects. Individual actions make a difference, but as a community, we can protect our most precious resource. The Blue Lakes program, creates the platform for community and cooperation.
For more, visit www.bluelakes.ca to learn more about the program and to find out how to enroll.
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