Bracebridge – On Friday September 27, the same day as the Climate strikes, another topical meeting took place. Local MPP Norman Miller, and Muskoka District Chair John Klinck, with OTF Grant Review Team member Patricia Arney stopped in to a local venue in Muskoka to hear about the direction that will be taken for a new ecolabel program, called Blue Lakes. The Blue Lakes project aims to award landowners and lake associations who demonstrate excellence in stewarding our precious and limited aquatic resources.
A 12-month SEED grant was awarded by the Ontario Trillium Foundation (OTF) in 2018, which allowed a collaborative group to shape and test the program. The pilot year concludes in October and with some promising results.
MPP Norman Miller said “Muskoka’ s lakes are the heart and soul of Muskoka. 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. 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 lead the development of many program features, provided review, and helped to pilot the program across the region. The group sample 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. 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,” said Leora Berman, COO and Founder of The Land Between charity and The Blue Lakes Program.
The 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 fourty 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.
Check out www.bluelakes.ca for more details about the program and to find out how to enroll.
The Ontario Trillium Foundation (OTF) is an agency of the Government of Ontario, and one of Canada’s leading granting foundations. OTF awarded $108 million to 629 projects last year to build healthy and vibrant communities in Ontario.
- The Land Between bioregion, is a distinct and important landscape that stretches from Georgian Bay to the Ottawa Valley
- There are over 2700 lakes in this region, and 10% of these are cold water sensitive lake trout lakes
- More than 15% of all lake trout lakes have over 75% shoreline development
- Development is increasing rapidly meanwhile controls/legal protection is primarily left to municipalities with limited resources, through their site plan controls and bylaw enforcement.
- Few standards exist to manage and protect lake health across Ontario.
- Approximately 75% of natural process (spawning, fish and wildlife foraging, fish nursery habitats, water filtration etc.) within a lake occur at the shoreline
- Ecolabels are known to raise awareness of all stakeholders involved; improve environmental performance in areas where improvement is most needed; minimize potential for environmental infractions and fines; increase confidence with government, community, residents etc.; provide environmental information so informed choices can be made