Guest Post: Lake Champlain Lakekeeper

Lake Champlain Fish Thank Phish Fans From The Bottom Of The Lake

Julie Silverman, Lake Champlain Lakekeeper

By Julie Silverman
Lake Champlain Lakekeeper, CLF Vermont

Thank you, Phish fans, for supporting the Conservation Law Foundation (CLF) Lake Champlain Lakekeeper program—a member of the Waterkeeper Alliance—from its beginning! CLF protects and advocates for all New Englanders – using a combination of the law, science, and the market to preserve our natural resources, build healthy communities, and grow a vibrant economy.

What an amazing year! It’s the 50th anniversary of the Clean Water Act, WaterWheel Foundation’ 25th anniversary of thinking globally and acting locally, and the 20th anniversary of the Lake Champlain Lakekeeper program.

I am honored to serve as the seventh CLF Lake Champlain Lakekeeper. My role is to be the eyes, ears, voice, heart, and hands of the Lake. I bring people out on the water to help monitor, collect data about, clean up, patrol, and protect the Lake. I’m sort of like the Lake Lorax without the bushy yellow mustache.

Love the Lake!

I grew up a stone’s throw away from Lake Champlain, spending summers swimming, sailing, waterskiing, paddling, and fishing. As a kid, Lake Champlain was a magical place for me, filled with endless adventures – and it still is today.

After living out of state for over a decade, I moved back to Vermont 1995 to help build a science center focused on Lake Champlain. The wonderful fish, frogs, birds, beaches, islands, and inlets were all just as I remembered them. But I also saw more shopping centers, roads, cars, and plastic debris, not to mention bigger houses and farms, than when I left. Plus, more pollution than ever was getting dumped into the water.

Lake Champlain needed help. I realized I had to do more. I became the Lakekeeper.

Despite its beauty, challenges lurk beneath Lake Champlain’s surface.

As the Lakekeeper, I understand how centuries of pollution from agricultural and urban runoff, sewage releases, plastics, poor forest management, and wetland loss have degraded the health of this once-vibrant ecosystem. Rapid development has increased polluted runoff from farms and paved surfaces alike. Too much phosphorus runoff fuels algae population explosions, often resulting in toxic blue-green algae outbreaks.

At the same time, new housing, and business development – combined with poor management of open spaces – are destroying some of Vermont’s most effective natural buffers to climate change: our river floodplains, wetlands, and forests. People are worried about the future.

A Clean Lake Champlain for Future Generations

Talking to people in the community and listening to issues that concern them is a core part of my role as Lakekeeper. People care about the health of their communities’ rivers and streams, which all connect us as neighbors in the Lake Champlain Basin. They tell me they want a swimmable, fishable, drinkable Lake Champlain for future generations.

We at Conservation Law Foundation want that, too. That’s why we’ve been fighting for a clean Lake Champlain for years. We’ve pushed successfully for stronger pollution limits for the Lake so that it can get healthier. We’ve advocated for state leaders to fully fund the clean-up measures needed to meet those pollution limits. And we’ve held state and federal agencies accountable when they didn’t follow the law and gave polluters a pass.

As Phish fans, you have not only supported my ability to get out and talk to, listen to, and advocate for Vermonters who care about Lake Champlain. You’ve also helped sustain our behind-the-scenes work in the state legislature and in court.

That work – and your support – is critical as we face the fallout from our changing climate and keep pushing to clean up our beloved lake. But there are things that you can do as an individual, too.

Protect what you love!

The challenges facing Lake Champlain are not unique to Vermont. If you care about a favorite lake, pond, swimming hole, river, or stream in your hometown, join a watershed or river group. You can help monitor the water, plant trees, clean up pollution, and restore wetlands. But we also all need to push for systemic change to tackle the scale of problems such as water pollution and climate change.

Mid-term elections are just around the corner. We need everyone to vote for clean water. Vote to protect the environment. Vote for the health of your community. Show up at public meetings, speak up, write letters, volunteer, talk to your neighbors, let elected officials know you care about what we do on the land and how it impacts the water we drink and the waterways we love.

If you haven’t gotten out on the water yet this year, take advantage of the remaining warm fall days to see for yourself just the beauty of Lake Champlain – or your favorite lake, pond, stream, or bit of ocean. It will rejuvenate your heart and soul, reminding you that all living things rely on clean water (including us! We are made of more than 70% water). Clean water is a right that’s worth fighting for.

Lake Champlain photos by Julie SIlverman ©.  Click on the images below to view larger.