In the summer of 2021, the Lake of the Woods District Stewardship Association (LOWDSA) was extremely busy with both long-standing and new stewardship initiatives.  They launched a new citizen science program that will help to detect the presence of zebra mussels (Dreissena polyporpha) within Lake of the Woods and surrounding water bodies. Volunteers were given settlement samplers to attach below their docks, a few feet above the lakebed.  These samplers are surfaces on which zebra mussels will settle after they complete their larval (“veliger”) stage. Forty volunteers have taken part in this project and will report back to LOWDSA on the detection of any zebra mussels. More information on this program is available at https://www.lowdsa.com/articles/zebra-mussel-citizen-science-project-launch

LOWDSA’s popular LakeSmart program is a dock-to-dock initiative that has been going strong for many years and brings stewardship information directly to shoreline property owners.  This summer, the LakeSmart team visited 560 docks on Lake of the Woods, Black Sturgeon Lake, Winnipeg River (Minaki), and Rabbit Lake in Kenora, sharing information on the ecosystem benefits of keeping shorelines natural, maintaining septic systems, planting native plants and reducing/avoiding fertilizers and pesticides. The LakeSmart team also worked with children from a local day camp to hold six events where the kids painted messages beside storm drains to encourage only rain down the drain, learned about the threats of invasive species and the importance of shoreline buffers. 

Three shoreline cleanups occurred virtually, 600 seedlings were planted at a local kids camp, 200 cubic yards of metal waste was recycled on their Metal Waste Day, and 11,400 seedlings were distributed to members and the public on Seedling Day to plant on their properties throughout the basin.

The LakeSmart Team identified a wetland area on Coney Island that was being encroached by purple loosestrife and worked with the landowner and volunteers for a removal effort. The LakeSmart team removed 13 garbage bags of invasive plant material and picked up 53 bags from a member volunteer. And, lastly, LOWDSA launched the first ever boat wash station in Kenora.  Operating for 10 days, the team decontaminated 35 boats, shared information with 143 people and distributed their famous dock kits to 76 individuals who stopped in at the boat wash station.  A very successful summer!