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WITC-Ashland earns Lake Superior Stewardship Award

WITC-Ashland was recently recognized for by the Lake Superior Binational Forum's eigth annual Lake Superior Binational Program Environmental Stewardship Awards. Ted May, Academic Dean - General Studies, Renewable Energy and Sustainability, and Trixie Lawver, academic affairs assistant and Ashland Green Team member, pose in front of one of the rain gardens with the plaque and a Lake Superior stone lamp awards given to the college.

(7/28/11): A number of area individuals and groups are among the nine American recipients of the Lake Superior Binational Forum's eighth annual Lake Superior Binational Program Environmental Stewardship Awards.

The Lake Superior Binational Forum is a multi-sector stakeholder group of U.S. and Canadian volunteers who work together to provide input to governments about lake issues and educate basin residents about ways to protect and restore the lake. Members come from Michigan, Minnesota, Wisconsin, and Ontario, Canada.

The awards program pays tribute to U.S. and Canadian nominees that have demonstrated a commitment to environmental stewardship through leadership in one of six categories: Youth; Individual Adult; Business; Industry; and Municipality, Organization, or First Nation/Tribe.

Recipients have demonstrated they have taken successful actions that minimize negative impacts on the natural environment in the Lake Superior basin. This year all recipients are in the U.S. Three of the nine winners are in Wisconsin, as are two honorable mention winners.

In the business category, the WITC-Ashland campus Rain Gardens impressed judges with a low-cost but effective solution to stormwater runoff. The WITC-Ashland campus is committed to considering and installing sustainable initiatives in all college operations whenever possible.

When new curbs and gutters were recently constructed on the campus perimeter, stormwater flowage into Lake Superior increased with the additional concrete. So, faculty, staff, and the Ashland County Land and Water Conservation Department sought to slow the flow of water by installing three very large rain gardens that replaced campus lawns. These gardens help divert water from the street and campus parking lots into a native wildflower and shrub garden that provides beautiful habitat for butterflies and other insects, plus food and shelter for small mammals.

The gardens also serve as a visual reminder of the merits of stormwater management and natural landscapes, and the ecological benefits that both bring to the environment and community.

Among the four adult winners, Bob Krumenaker, superintendent of the Apostle Islands National Lakeshore, was selected as showing outstanding leadership by an individual. The written announcement for the awards said he has been a progressive and enthusiastic national leader who moved climate change adaptation and mitigation concepts into public consciousness in the Great Lakes.

"By recommending a bold new vision for the National Park Service, he championed the need to address climate change in national parks at a time when the idea was highly controversial. Bob led a NPS task force to develop and adopt regional climate change strategies in national public land and waters," the announcement said. "Under his leadership, the group developed interpretive brochures on the impact of climate change on the Great Lakes as well as peer-reviewed reports and materials."

Closer to home, Bob led the Apostle Islands staff to aggressively redesign operating procedures and to retrofit vehicles and boats to reduce greenhouse gases. The Apostle Islands National Lakeshore recognized as the first "Climate-Friendly Park" in the Great Lakes has quickly become a leader in NPS climate change efforts through implementation of many sustainable initiatives.

The honorable mention recipients include Eric Schubring, host of the Local Morning Edition program on WOJB Community Woodland Radio on the Lac Courte Oreilles Indian Reservation. He hosts a weekly radio interview program about Lake Superior called, "Big Sea, Shining Water," that features binational guests describing the work they do for the lake, as well as hobbies, missions, joys, and challenges of living around the Lake Superior basin.

Also receiving an honorable mention was the Town of Bayfield which created the Houghton Falls Nature Preserve, a unique piece of Lake Superior shoreline and watershed that contains old growth pine, waterfalls, and cedar forests that reduce rainwater runoff into Lake Superior.

The Douglas County Forestry Committee of Superior was named as winner in the municipality category for their work on the Nemadji River Watershed, purchasing a 3,995-acre tract of undeveloped land with six miles of pristine river frontage despite the fact that it was not an easy sell considering tight county budgets.

A public awards ceremony for the U.S. winners was held on July 17 at the Barkers Island Pavilion, in Superior, during the Lake Superior Day festival for the public. Lake Superior Day is held annually around the entire lake on the third Sunday in July.

The WITC-Ashland Rain Gardens were recently featured by The Northlands NewsCenter's Jeff Edmonds. View his feature story: Your Green Life: "Rain Garden at WITC."