by Dale Finseth
I've talked about it before, and it bears repeating, that active community groups, such as watershed groups are an essential part of protecting water quality. The level of expertise that exists in a watershed group and the effective manner in which they can communicate it to their neighbors is a great way to educate the people who live around and use a lake, pond or stream. It also serves as an excellent way to introduce new ideas for how to protect water quality and sometimes provides a way to change misguided or erroneous beliefs or practices.
Neighbors are often the best way to learn about problems you may be having on your property, ways to address that problem and resources for technical assistance. With the additional assistance of an active watershed association or even a more local camp road association others can gain guidance when you have questions about how to identify a problem, address the issue or where to seek other more useful advice.
What is a "watershed group" or Watershed Association? Some are more formal than others. Some are more expansive and focus their efforts on entire watershed systems. They are composed of people from all walks of life and they share the desire to do the right thing for their watershed and the water quality of the stream, pond or lake. They do not always agree on the methods to use, but they tend to agree on the goal.
Folks want to do the right thing but don't always know what that "right thing" is. This holds true with watershed conservation. Most people have good intentions and would not knowingly harm water resources, particularly if they happen to live near a lake or pond. The bottom line is good water quality is good for the recreation and it is good for protecting your asset. Even if one's conservation motivations are a bit self-serving, conservation actions still benefit everybody. It's a win-win situation. By using good conservation practices on the land, one is doing what's right for the land, for water quality and in the long run, for your real estate values.
Depending on the extent of the group and its resources they may focus on simpler practices used by individual landowners i.e. buffers, using erosion control mulch, or stormwater management. Or they may seek more elaborate ways to address issues like a gravel road management plan. That sometimes includes hiring a consultant or taking on bigger projects to protect water quality.
Before any of these larger projects might be addressed, it is necessary to first identify the extent of the problem. In the Belgrade area folks have an opportunity to take part in helping to identify where some of the sites needing assistance are located. There is an opportunity to help with the upcoming Long Pond watershed survey scheduled for September 22 and 23. For more information check the BLA website or directly contact the BLA at 512-5150 or info@BLAmaine.org.
Watershed groups like an Association or even a camp road group can pool their resources, landowners can take action as a group or undertake tasks that require larger amounts of manpower or money. They also make it easier to take advantage of professional assistance/expertise or financial help. By using the Association, individuals are able to find answers to the question, "What is the right thing to do here?"
Lake associations are able to do important things for their watersheds. This is due in no small part to the fact that they are made up of people who care about the resource and want to see it taken care of properly. That feature alone can make all the difference between active conservation and environmental degradation. As people in the area see good things happening, it generates more and more interest and support. Volunteerism works and the spirit of community stays alive when it is fed by new energy. So keep up the good work out there you know who you are. We'll follow your lead.
Remember, there is a lot to do in order to protect water quality.
Conservation Too columns are written by staff at by the Kennebec County Soil and Water Conservation District in Augusta. For more information about the district and its projects, call Dale Finseth at