MARQUETTE - Living in Marquette, you're probably constantly aware of Lake Superior. But the entire Upper Peninsula is divided into three large watersheds, one that drains into Lake Superior in the north, one that drains into Lake Michigan in the south and one that drains to Lake Huron in the east.
Protecting and maintaining the lakes, streams and rivers that make up those watersheds has been the ongoing mission of the Superior Watershed Partnership, a non-profit organization that originated and continues to work in the Upper Peninsula.
"Watershed protection and restoration is the core of what we do," said SWP Executive Director Carl Lindquist. "You can see cleaner water quality, more fish, better land conditions."
Area and downstate teachers took a trip on the Coaster II to learn more about lake preservation. The Superior Watershed Partnership is seeking more members to help provide funds for community and youth programs that allow people to learn about the environment. (Superior Watershed Partnership photo)
Teens and area kids, including these girls from the Keweenaw Bay Indian Community, got the chance to reconnect with their environment thanks to programs offered by the partnership. This group of young people participated in a recent partnership youth conservation corps program and helped to conduct basic lake monitoring. (Superior Watershed Partnership photo)
The organization is involved in not only developing plans to help protect and restore watershed areas, but also takes a hand in carrying out those projects, as well as taking on issues such as climate change through programs that encourage local residents to conserve energy.
A big part of the SWP mission, however, is community education and youth programming that allows people to get involved in protecting the area they live in.
"That's where we're getting requests all the time. That includes working with schools, getting interns involved," Lindquist said. "The difference with us as a green organization is we don't go into the schools as much as we get the kids out of the schools and into the field."
Even living in a rural area such as the Upper Peninsula, Lindquist said kids especially can become "nature deficient," disconnected from the environment around them.
To keep young people in touch with what's happening in the world immediately surrounding them, the SWP brings students outside to study streams and lakes, do garbage pickups and learn more about how their actions can impact the environment.
Although grants can be secured for larger reconstruction or energy efficiency projects, the community and youth involvement aspect of the SWP is funded purely on the group's memberships and sponsors.
"That's something we're pretty proud of, getting things done inexpensively and on a shoestring," Lindquist said.
To expand those youth and community programs, however, the organization needs to see an increase in membership. Individuals can become members of the organization beginning at $25, with business sponsorships beginning at $250.
As a local organization, money that is donated to the SWP goes to work to protect watersheds and involve youth directly in the area. The SWP has worked in every county in the U.P., working to prevent pollution, remove and prevent invasive species, reintroducing native plants, stabilizing shoreline and providing educational opportunities.
The organization also works to promote nature tourism in the area.
In recent years, the group has been involved in projects such as a public education campaign to limit the travel of cigarette butts from where they are tossed on the ground into storm sewers and then out into Lake Superior.
"Grants are one thing. They are dedicated to specific projects," Lindquist said. "But a lot of this community work is unfunded."
To find out more about becoming a member of the SWP or to sign up, visit the organization's website at www.superiorwatersheds.org. You can also contact the organization at 906-228-6095.
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