People, Lakes and Land

People, Lakes, and Land: Puzzling Relationships

In the early years of what is now called “lake management”, scientists and citizens alike focused on restoring the quality of degraded lakes through a myriad of in-lake techniques and activities in the near-shore area. Simple predictive models were used and goal-setting tended to be neglected. If goals were mentioned, they often were wishful comparisons with pristine environments elsewhere. Often, similar management techniques were used from lake to lake forgetting that “lake management is lake specific”.

As the science of lake management evolved it became obvious that focusing exclusively on a lake was not enough — we had to consider the watershed as well. This expansion of focus created not only new partners in lake management but new challenges as well. It improved our predictive tools, enhanced our understanding of the relationships between lakes and watersheds, and created opportunities to involve more people in lake management.

The evolution of lake management continues. Today, we are building broader relationships that look at regional and national lake and landscape patterns. This has improved our understanding of the potential relationships between lakes and the broader patterns of our landscape. This new vision has improved our ability to set resource goals and increase the emphasis on protecting lakes rather than expensive restoration efforts.

However, at each step in the evolution of lake management, it has become increasingly important to take into account the people who are involved, be they lakeshore residents, local planning and zoning authorities, university staff, consultants, or government resource managers. Developing good working relationships between these and all other groups involved ultimately will do the most to protect our lake resources.

Thus, the people side of lake management has become increasingly important. It means we have had to improve our skills for dealing with each other as individuals or organizations, and for managing and nurturing volunteers, educating people on lake and land stewardship, and working to change attitudes on how lakes should be used or shoreline areas managed.

It seems safe to say the continuing development of relationships between people, lakes, and land will create new and challenging problems for lake management. But, by building partnerships, and remembering that “lake management is lake specific”, these challenges will be puzzling but not impossible.

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