Over the past nine months, we’ve become ever so deeply concerned about the health of our bodies. The ‘body of concern’ expressed daily, hourly, in all media had the biologists in us thinking about health of bodies from another perspective – how the bodies of humans relate to bodies of water.
Lakes and rivers are called bodies – of water. But water body health is every bit as precarious as health is to we humans in a pandemic. Humans are lucky. We can move out of harm’s way if we see danger coming. We can invent vaccines, we have a healthcare system, and we come with a total wrapper – our skin – that helps limit what gets into our bodies.
Waterbodies, on the other hand, aren’t so lucky. They can’t move and must take in whatever comes at them from upstream, from the air, from whatever lands on and crosses their surface. They have no protective wrapper as do we. While we have healthcare, they have several layers of governance… but it’s people who ultimately decide to prevent and fix issues, or not.
The Thousand Islands Watershed Land Trust is aware of just how fragile and precarious the health of waterbodies, be they wetlands, rivers, streams or lakes. And for years now, we’ve worked with the Charleston Lake Association, other conservation partners and people around bodies of water. The CLA has done tremendous work to advocate for and buffer the lake from damaging developments and excess nutrients flowing into it. Other waterfront groups too have studied water quality and impacts. On the St. Lawrence, the Thousand Islands Association’s new initiatives bring more awareness to environmental imperatives. With the increasing pressures on our waterbodies, such initiatives have never been more important.
“Think of wetlands, shorelines and woodlands as PPE for the land you love.“Don Ross
While our own circulation system is inside us, a watershed’s vital circulation system wide open. The watershed has a few major arteries – rivers and streams – but there are thousands of capillaries: the trickles of creeks, ponds and rivulets. The wetlands, shorelines, and woodlands are the watershed’s lungs and vital organs – it’s filter system. Protecting these is critical to downstream health of the watershed system. Think of wetlands, shorelines and woodlands as PPE for the land you love.
An American farmer/poet/philosopher, Wendell Berry, once wrote “Do unto those downstream as you would have those upstream do unto you”.
A major part of TIWLT’s Thousand Acre Challenge is to work on the largest upstream artery and capillary network for the watershed: the Leeders Creek wetland complex, and Elbe and Beales Creeks and the myriad of wetlands and small streams that feed into them. We’re working with landowners upstream that care deeply about the future health of their own lands, and about the well-being of the watershed downstream of them. A ‘Thousand Acre Challenge’ sounds big, but in overall landmass, it’s a drop in the bucket. Size matters, but it’s attitudes of all landowners, big and tiny, that matter even more. Conservation is as much a state of mind as the status of land.
As we’ve become so very aware in the past few months, healthcare takes the will of the community to be effective. The health of the watershed is guaranteed only if we the people do our part. Help TIWLT and your waterbody’s association with conservation projects.
– By Don Ross, President