Foiling the milfoil

Imagine Little Sebago Lake so full of weeds boat travel is impossible. Imagine the same fate for Collins Pond or Crescent Lake and Thomas Pond. Weeds so thick your motor clogs and barely muddles through. Sound like a fun afternoon on the lake? Not really.

While it may seem invasive weeds such as lake-killing milfoil is a far-away threat, the threat is closer than you may think. Many groups such as the Lakes Environmental Association (see a page 10 story), Raymond Waterways Protective Association and the Little Sebago Lake Association are getting serious in their efforts to fight invasive variable milfoil. And they’re doing the work before our pristine lakes become infested with weeds, like so many other lakes around the country have become.

The time has come for the average Mainer to realize that milfoil can ruin our way of life. It’s not clear whether we’ve gotten to this point of awareness yet. People in Maine and the Lakes Region need to get with it when it comes to milfoil.

Lakes are the organs of our state’s economic well-being with rivers and streams the life-blood. It’s not enough to enact legislation that protects our waters from harmful pollution from farms and factories and leave the recreational uses to chance. Milfoil can wreak havoc with boating access points as well as traditionally abundant fishing grounds. Clogged waterways will suck the life out of local economies because lakefront property values will sag, and the flow of recreation-seeking tourists will dry up. Water is only as good as a motor or paddle can slice its way through. Choking weeds will choke our economy as well.

But money isn’t everything. While there is a clear economic threat, milfoil’s quieter threat is to the health of our lakes. Fish love the protection of native weeds but along with milfoil comes algae blooms that can suck the oxygen out of a lake. A once vibrant, clear and pristine pond will soon become a cesspool uninhabitable for native fisheries. Maine’s reputation for beauty will suffer if our lakes become infested. Vacationland will certainly diminish.

So, what can we do? Should we be hopeless or hold out hope that this trend can be reversed? While the battle will be tough, efforts are under way to stem the tide. Groups are laying down sun-blocking snowmobile tracks and tarps in an effort to snuff the life out of growing milfoil. Other agencies with an army of volunteers have had success with back-breaking, hand-pulling methods. And some, like we read in a front page story, are using fancy machinery to literally suck these milfoil varmints from out of their sandy foundations. But they need your help. If you see strange weeds, report them. If you are able, join a mitigation team. Let’s all be vigilant.

We applaud those already actively fighting this good fight. It is hard work, but it has to be done, if we are to save our lakes. It’s unclear whether the public has yet grasped the importance of the milfoil problem, but it’s very clear that local groups have taken the initiative and are hard at work doing everything they can to stop this infestation.

Great American vigilance

You’ve got to love Lane Hiltunen’s stick-to-itiveness. You may not applaud his efforts to lower taxes (see our front page story), but you’ve got to admit that he’s not afraid to speak his mind and go against the grain.

Supporters of TABOR (a.k.a. the Taxpayer’s Bill of Rights), Hiltunen and friends are planning a tame tax revolt in September and may even burn their tax bills in protest of high taxes. (Mind you, they’re going to pay them first, but it’s the thought that counts, right?)

Always one to stand up to government, Hiltunen’s efforts are reminiscent of the Patriots throwing tea overboard in Boston. He’s trying to make a stand against high taxes. Hiltunen will probably not go down in history as a tide-changing revolutionary, but locally, he serves as a reminder of those days when people were willing to die for positive change.

There’s so little now that sparks patriotism. We Americans seem to be grasping at “causes.” Gay rights and abortion seem to be the current rallying cries, but their pull seems to pale in comparison with throwing off British or Nazi tyranny and the equality of races. While it’s nice to have these big fights behind us, Hiltunen reminds us that big fights are still ahead of us and that we cozy Americans shouldn’t get too comfortable with our television-lazing and margarita-sipping lifestyles.

Hiltunen stays vigilant and reminds us all that someday, we will once again need to be vigilant in defense of our way of life. It may be the Islamists that one day push us to stronger action, or some other enemy, but in the meantime, let’s enjoy watching Hiltunen, et al., as they carry the torch of awareness and vigilance.

John Balentine


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