Minnesota's private lake associations contribute more than $6.2 million and 1.2 million volunteer hours each year to preserving the quality of the state's signature natural resource, according to a study released Monday.
Concordia College in Moorhead conducted the study over the summer on behalf of Minnesota Lakes and Rivers Advocates. The authors said they believe it's the first study to measure the preservation efforts of the more than 500 private lake associations in the state.
Lake association members "are there at the lake, every day, all year long," said co-author Michelle Marko, a Concordia biology professor and co-director of the college's environmental studies program. "They have a lot of knowledge and they're providing a great resource, both in their financial contributions and their volunteer work.
"There are over 12,000 lakes in Minnesota. Managing them is a very complex task," Marko said. "We have many agencies working on that — local governments as well as state organizations and even federal. To manage each of those 12,000 lakes is a lot of work and no one person or organization can be everywhere at one time."
The study was based on a survey of members from 186 lake associations, along with interviews and field visits.
The most common concerns cited by members were aquatic invasive species, overall water control and runoff policy.
Respondents also expressed a desire to work more closely with the state Department of Natural Resources and expressed concern over the aging population of lake property owners.
The report concludes that "Minnesota's lake associations play a crucial role in protecting and managing Minnesota's lakes."
It recommends "more communication and collaboration between policymakers and lake associations."