For more than two decades the community surrounding White Lake has been working to deal with an industrial legacy that placed the lake on a bi-national list of "toxic hotspots" known as Areas of Concern (AOC). Yesterday White Lake, one of forty-three AOCs throughout the Great Lakes, was officially removed as an AOC by the U.S. Environmental Protection Agency; an achievement that truly highlights the importance of partnerships as an essential element of many local natural resource projects. Thus, it is not surprising that one of the partners in this effort was a Conservation District.
In the early years of the White Lake Area of Concern community leaders and local advocates formed the White Lake Public Advisory Council and it was this organization that began the work to address and document many of the problems that plagued White Lake. It was during these initial years that the Muskegon Conservation District first got involved providing administrative support, outreach, and education. While activities progressed and projects evolved the Conservation District started a more active role in writing grants, initiating surveys, and facilitating contract work with other local and state partners to determine the scope of the restoration work which was necessary to remove White Lake as an Area of Concern. As the White Lake Public Advisory Council and community leaders moved toward action and implementation, the role of the Muskegon Conservation District shifted again; this time providing technical guidance, developing restoration plans, and documenting progress made on individual impairments.
With the White Lake Public Advisory Council making continuous progress toward removal of White Lake as an Area of Concern, it became apparent that a significant portion of the degraded habitat had yet to be addressed. Once again the Conservation District stepped forward and in 2010 wrote and received 2.1 million dollars from the U.S. Environmental Protection Agency - Great Lakes Restoration Initiative. These funds allowed the Conservation District and community to implement a comprehensive fish and wildlife habitat restoration project which put AOC removal in reach.
Jeff Auch, Executive Director of the Muskegon Conservation District, is ardent to note: "Although we played a key role in White Lake's recovery it was the local community, municipal leaders, and individuals that deserve the credit. The District simply did what Conservation Districts do so well - filling a niche in natural resource management. Sometimes this is taking a leadership role, implementing projects, or providing technical guidance; while other times it is the behind the scenes work of writing grants and reports, doing outreach, and developing designs."
The White Lake community and the Great Lakes Region have much to celebrate with this accomplishment, most notably the recognition that partners make all the difference in the protection and restoration of natural resources. Congratulations to White Lake and to the Muskegon Conservation District on this significant achievement!
About Michigan Conservation Districts
Michigan's 78 Conservation Districts are the local providers of natural resource management services that help our citizens conserve their lands and our environment for a cleaner, healthier, economically stronger Michigan.
As local, special purpose units of government, each Conservation District is governed by a locally elected, five-member board of directors. The guiding philosophy of Michigan Conservation Districts is that local people should make decisions on conservation issues at the local level, with technical assistance provided by government.
For more information about Michigan Conservation Districts and to connect to your local Conservation District, visit the Michigan Association of Conservation Districts (MACD) website www.macd.org, or contact MACD at 517-324-5274.