Watershed Institute beefs up on lake stewards

An energetic group of freshly-minted lake stewards gathered along the shores of Tupper Lake late last week to talk to local officials about preventing the spread of aquatic invasive species.

The stewards said Eurasian water milfoil is their biggest concern.

Kyle Milner is a lake steward and environmental studies major at Paul Smith's College, home of the Adirondack Watershed Institute.

"It spreads the fastest and it causes the most problems and it's the most expensive to remove, so if we can work on some kind of prevention it helps management down the road," he said.

Milner is one of nearly 30 college-aged lake stewards that will take part in the Paul Smith's College Watershed Stewardship Program. The new hires were made possible by a $224,000 grant from the U.S. Fish and Wildlife Service.

The stewards will monitor 14 lakes in three main recreational areas: the Tri-Lakes region, the Saratoga Lake region, and the Fulton Chain of Lakes.

The stewards say their job is to educate the public about how to avoid spreading invasive species that are transported from to lake to lake. Weeds and other invasive organisms cling to trailers and boats, or are transported in bilge water.

But even with the increased personnel, the stewards pointed out that they rely on the public's help. They said most people are interested in doing what they can, but they are aware that sometimes people may not be cooperative.

Dani Thompson is a lake steward who will be monitoring Lake Placid, one of the few lakes that have transport laws against moving invasive species.

"There's always going to be a small number of people that are going to resist [our efforts]," she said. "Just let those people be on their way and try and give them as much information as we can."

Other lake stewards will rely solely on the public's sense of responsibility to help protect the environment.

Kyle Milner says stewards have been in contact with officials at the Forest Service. He says they're undermanned and don't have the resources to chase down milfoil in the Park.

The lake stewards began inspecting boats and trailers over Memorial Day weekend and will remain on duty through Labor Day.

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