Never before has there been so much support from lake users, resource managers, and government entities to improve Lake Champlain and its watershed. Just as the historic flooding of 2011 was a touchstone moment in the history of the management of Lake Champlain, the revised phosphorus TMDL for Vermont, released by the U.S. Environmental Protection Agency in 2016, has heralded renewed awareness, debate, and action around the health of the Lake Champlain Basin.
Action is occurring on many fronts. The governor of Vermont has initiated a phosphorus innovation challenge, the governor of New York has announced a harmful algal bloom reduction effort, and Québec is working on similar programs. Federal, state, and provincial government agencies in the United States and Canada are examining and applying tools to reduce phosphorus pollution, mitigate harmful flooding, restore aquatic habitat and native fisheries to the watershed, and interpret the rich culture and heritage of the region. The U.S. congressional delegation representing the jurisdictions within the Lake Champlain Basin continues to enthusiastically support these efforts.
In 2017, the LCBP, with support from the Lake Champlain Steering Committee, released an updated version of Opportunities for Action, the management plan for Lake Champlain and its watershed. The plan directs the efforts of the LCBP and its partners in the pursuit of four goals: clean water, healthy ecosystems, thriving communities, and an informed and involved public. These goals serve as the framework for much of the LCBP’s work, including the 2018 State of the Lake and Ecosystems Indicators Report. The report covers the work being done to achieve the four goals and presents the most recent information on the conditions of Lake Champlain and its watershed. It serves as an update to legislators and policymakers and informs citizens and resource managers about threats to the Lake and opportunities to meet present and future challenges.
The state, or condition, of the Lake’s ecosystem—the focus of this report—is a primary component of the Pressure-State-Response approach adopted by the LCBP for assessing and managing Basin resources (Figure 2). In this approach, the LCBP tracks human activities that can exert “Pressure” of the sort that may result in complex, long-term, and cumulative ecosystem impacts—that is, changes in the “State” of the Lake. These changes often elicit a management “Response,” such as new environmental policies or management actions. A proper “Response” can reduce sources of “Pressure” to bring about a more desirable “State” of the Lake.
Opportunities for Action identifies several management themes that underlie the strategies aimed at achieving all four goals in the plan. These management themes also are reflected throughout all sections of this State of the Lake report. The knowledge of the “State” of the Lake included here and the “Response,” which has led to many improvements in water quality and ecosystem health, are the results of science-based, collaborative management that takes a holistic approach to watershed management based on coordinated development of high-quality, objective scientific data.
The 2018 State of the Lake report highlights the economic integration management theme to a greater degree than previous versions. Management strategies that maintain vibrant local economies while protecting and restoring the ecological and cultural resources of the Basin cuts across all four Opportunities for Action goals. More than ever, strategies take into account the inextricable link between innovative and cost-effective approaches to pollution reduction, efficient use of resources through coordinated funding and management actions, and vibrant communities that are able to leverage their natural and cultural heritage assets.
Resilience to climate change is also a common theme in the management efforts of the LCBP and its watershed partners. In an effort to more effectively reflect the far-reaching impact of climate change, this 2018 report includes climate change considerations throughout each section rather than, as done in the previous two versions of the report, within a dedicated climate change section.
This printed edition of the report includes new information and updated illustrations that summarize the current state of knowledge of the conditions in the Lake Champlain Basin. Additional supplemental materials are available in the online version at sol.lcbp.org.