The State of Michigan has recognized June 4-12 as Great Lakes and Freshwater Week to raise awareness of our state’s beautiful inland lakes, rivers, streams and groundwater. This awareness is meant to inspire residents to protect our water resources while they enjoy them.
Some of the events that have happened this week include beach cleanups and free fishing days.
Beach cleanup is a fun and easy way to take care of our lakes. Residents gathered Wednesday, June 8, at Holland State Park to remove litter from the sand. If you missed this one, visit adopt.greatlakes.org to find a cleanse to join or start your own.
Fishing is a favorite pastime for many Michigan residents, and twice a year the state offers free fishing weekends.
This weekend, June 11-12, all fishing license fees were waived for residents and out-of-state visitors.
Recreation passports will also not be required to enter state parks and boating access sites this weekend. Free fishing weekends for 2023 will be February 18-19 and June 10-11.
Unfortunately, our many water resources also create many entry points for invasive plants and animals. “Invasive” refers to species that are not native to our state and whose introduction is likely to harm our economy, environment, or human health.
They pose a threat when they outcompete native species where they have no natural predators, upsetting the balance of resources within an ecosystem.
There are many ways to get involved in preventing, educating and reporting these specific species.
HELP PREVENT THE SPREAD: Michigan enforces laws that protect our water resources for boaters and anglers.
They require a four-step process: cleaning boats, trailers and equipment; empty livewells, holds, ballast tanks and all water by removing drain plugs; dry boats and equipment; and dispose of unwanted bait in the trash.
Educate yourself and others on how to identify species of concern: common invasive species in our area include round goby and curly pondweed.
The state also offers NotMISpecies webinars to explain how local agencies, universities, and organizations are working to protect our ecosystems. It’s a great place to learn more about species-specific actions, as well as ask the experts questions.
There are also plenty of volunteer opportunities to educate your community! Look for events such as the Aquatic Invasive Species Blitz taking place July 1-10 at various locations. This event is dedicated to teaching methods to prevent the introduction of aquatic invasive species from recreational watercraft and equipment between bodies of water at public and private water access sites. .
Another option would be to participate in the Clean Boats Clean Waters initiatives which allow volunteer citizens to help prevent the spread of aquatic invasive species, or to participate in decontamination training which more clearly outlines information related to the decontamination of the terrain equipment and vehicles for anyone who works, plays or volunteers in Michigan’s many waterways.
Local decision-makers, as well as appointed and elected officials and municipal staff, can attend Michigan Water School to learn about Michigan’s water resources to inform sound management decisions and raise awareness of critical issues.
Report species when you encounter them: Michigan’s Aquatic Invasive Species Watch List contains species that pose immediate and significant threats to our natural resources.
Currently, the list contains the following species: Brazilian Waterweed, European Water Frog, European Water Clover, Dydrilla, Parrot’s Watermilfoil, Water Chestnut, Water Hyacinth, Water Lettuce, Water Soldier water and yellow floating heart.
These are particularly important to seek out as they currently have a limited distribution and therefore still present the possibility of being eradicated with the help of Citizen Reports and the Early Detection and Response Initiative. Landowners can choose to control these species on their own using best management practices or with the help of their local conservation districts.
Through these various initiatives, we can prioritize and care for the many water resources that make Michigan such a wonderful place to live.
— Sarah Irvin is a naturalist for the ODC network and holds BS degrees in earth sciences and environmental studies.
About this series
The MiSustainable Holland column is a collection of community voices sharing updates on local sustainability initiatives.