Waterkeeper and Idaho Conservation League joining forces

By Steve Holt
Reader Contributor

As you may know, the Lake Pend Oreille Waterkeeper, its staff, board of directors, along with a dedicated crew of citizen scientist volunteers have all worked diligently for more than a decade to protect one of Bonner County’s greatest natural assets: Lake Pend Oreille. LPOW has played a critical role in this regard by keeping tabs on the lake’s water quality through our sampling and testing programs as well as advocating for responsible policies, programs and land use decisions that keep Lake Pend Oreille’s water clean, swimmable, fishable and drinkable. 

After 10 great years, it is bittersweet that LPOW will be handing off our water quality monitoring, testing and advocacy programs to the Idaho Conservation League. Since 1973, ICL has played a leading role throughout the state in protecting public lands, combating climate change, and strengthening rules and laws on air and water quality. ICL has grown from a single staff member to a current staff of 22 hard-working conservationists. With its current membership in excess of 11,000, they have been at the forefront of engaging the public and working with Idaho’s elected leaders to protect Idaho’s environment. 

Until now, ICL has lacked the resources and staff to engage at the level needed to adequately monitor water quality in north Idaho. With this transition, including committed funding from LPOW and several of its funders, ICL will be able to hire a full-time staff person in Sandpoint who will be dedicated to addressing issues that threaten not only Lake Pend Oreille, but also Lake Coeur d’Alene and Priest Lake. 

This position will also ensure that our Water Quality Monitoring Program, with its 10 years of critically gathered data, will continue to move forward under ICL’s care and provide an increased opportunity for expansion. This model program is utilized by the Idaho Department of Environmental Quality in a number of ways, including providing valuable data to a new state Watershed Advisory Group in analyzing the situation in Boyer Slough. 

As LPOW and ICL began working more closely together on the Trestle Creek residential marina project, each of us recognized not only the assets in our respective organizations but aspects of our partnership that brought a more comprehensive strategic effort. This was the seed planted that we truly believe will bear sweeter fruit. 

Thank you for your continued support as we move forward with this transition. We are hopeful that you will see this move as a win for everyone as much as we do. 

On a more personal note I will soon be stepping back from the day-to-day operations of LPOW. This journey for me began back in 2006. Over the past 15 years I have been honored to work with an incredibly dedicated collection of conservationists, board members, supporters and volunteers in our quest to protect our waters. While daily gratification in this field is many times elusive, we’ve made some significant contributions that I feel proud to have been a part of. I am absolutely thrilled that ICL will carry the torch and advocate for our local waterways moving forward. While I will be spending more time with family and friends, traveling and definitely fishing, my home is here. I will continue to work in a volunteer capacity, as I hope you do as well, to make sure our waters are swimmable, fishible and drinkable for future generations.

Steve Holt was a founding member of the Lake Pend Oreille Waterkeeper and has worked with the organization since its inception 10 years ago, including as executive director.

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