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Volunteers honored for lake conservation efforts

| November 21, 2023 1:00 AM

SANDPOINT — The Idaho Conservation League’s water quality stewards are receiving multiple awards for their dedication to protecting Lake Pend Oreille. 

Each November, the Idaho Nonprofit Center, Serve Idaho, and the Governor’s Commission on Service and Volunteerism commemorate Idaho Philanthropy Day by honoring exceptional organizations and volunteers across the state for their work. This year, ICL’s Water Quality Stewards have been selected as honorees.

These environmental stewards volunteer through ICL’s Water Quality Monitoring Program, a citizen-science initiative. Each spring, stewards receive training on properly collecting water quality data and samples. Monthly from May through September, they collect data and water samples from 15 stations across Lake Pend Oreille and the Pend Oreille River. 

The group has earned this year’s Timeless Adult Volunteer Award, which is typically given to an adult individual who has given a significant amount of service to their community. This marks the first time a collective group of volunteers has earned the award.

“The title of Timeless Volunteer is more than fitting for our stewards, as their efforts have a long-lasting impact,” said Karissa Huntsman, North Idaho community engagement assistant with ICL. “The data they collect helps us to tell a story of Lake Pend Oreille for years to come and is used by agencies like the Department of Environmental Quality to make management decisions.”

In addition to the Timeless Adult Volunteer Award, the stewards have been selected as the honorees for the Governor Cecil D. Andrus Volunteer of the Year Award. This award is jointly presented by the Andrus family, the Idaho Nonprofit Center and Serve Idaho. 

“We are thrilled for our stewards to be honored with an award named after Governor Andrus,” said Huntsman. “He diligently advocated for the protection of Idaho’s special places and natural heritage, and these stewards strive to do the same.” 

The volunteers have devoted their time, energy and resources to be proactive advocates for the protection of local waterways. By visiting and monitoring the same stations regularly, they are able to better understand the overall health of the lake and river systems. They look for potential threats to water quality, such as pollution and poor land use management. In addition, they bring awareness to the issues. 

The stewards were excited to learn about and celebrate the awards at an end-of-season party held in October.

“We do this because we feel it’s important,” said volunteer steward Preston Andrews. “We don’t expect any awards for it, but we’re grateful to be recognized.” 

A physical award will be presented to the stewards next March at the Idaho Nonprofit Center’s regional conference in Coeur d’Alene. 

To learn more about ICL’s Water Quality Monitoring Program and to see results from this year's monitoring, visit idahocl.org/WQMP. If you are interested in becoming a steward next summer, please email khuntsman@idahoconservation.org.