Earlier this week, the colorful leaves on the forest roads in our lakes area were a terrific reminder about how much land in our watersheds actually contain a diversity of trees.

The sprinkling of yellows, oranges, reds and greens of the deciduous trees and the deep green of the variety of pines was beautiful!

It is good to remember that these trees in the forests all help protect our pristine water quality here on the lakes in our watersheds.

At our Sept. 30 Hubbard County Coalition of Lake Associations (COLA) meeting, we learned from our guest speaker Dan Steward, retired Board of Soil and Water Resources (BSWR), that the forests act like a sponge. The rains are absorbed by the trees. This slows the runoff and helps prevent soil erosion into streams and lakes. The rain may even become part of the groundwater.

Steward also explained how the fisheries are supported by the forests. Healthy oxygen levels in lakes are maintained when excess nutrients are taken up by the trees. Algae blooms are minimized.

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The Minnesota Department of Natural Resources (DNR) has found that if 75% of a watershed is forested, this helps protect the quality of the water.

Steward’s video presentation is here: www.hubbardcolamn.org/presentations.html.

As the colorful leaves fall and cushion the trails on family hunting lands, it may be helpful for families to consider protecting the forests for the future generations, too. You would be helping preserve our healthy lakes area in your watershed.

There is a program through DNR Forestry called Sustainable Forest Incentive Act that provides annual incentive payments to encourage private landowners to keep their wooded areas undeveloped. Learn more at www.dnr.state.mn.us/foreststewardship/sfia/index.html

Sharon Natzel is president of the Hubbard County Coalition of Lake Associations.