By KIM SAPKOWSKI
Secretary of the Rogue River Watershed Council
The current economic environment is, to say the least, unpredictable. One thing is constant, however – nature. The changing seasons, day and night, and flowing rivers are unwavering. Knowing this keeps us grounded in an ever changing economic environment.
The Rogue River provides its communities many economic benefits. Data provided by West Michigan Trout Unlimited and the Michigan Department of Environmental Quality shows that in 2004, 17,239 angling trips were made to the river and fisherman spent an average of $35 per fishing trip to the Rogue River Watershed. That’s a yearly total of $603,365.
What would we do if an area business failed and left the local economy with a $603,365 void?
The Rogue River has been a source of food, water, and transportation for humans and animals for thousands of years. The river and its surrounding watershed were formed by glaciers around 12,000 years ago. Today the Rogue River has the distinction of being one of Michigan’s southern-most trout streams. It is known throughout the state and mid-west for being a clean trout stream located within 15 minutes of an urban center. Here it is quite possible to toss fishing gear into the car, dash out of work at 5:00 and have a line in the water by 5:30.
When we protect and preserve the Rogue River, we generate income for our local economy by providing a clean and healthy river. Bait shops, canoe liveries, gas stations, and restaurants, just to name a few, benefit from people using the Rogue River.
The social benefits are harder to measure yet just as valuable, and intermingle with the economic benefits. A stroll on the boardwalk along the river in Rockford, spying deer at the Rogue’s banks while canoeing in the quiet of early morning, kids splashing and catching minnows in the river on a bright summer day or steam rising from the ice-crusted river on a zero degree morning; these are only a few of the social benefits the Rogue River provides.
Protecting and preserving the river doesn’t necessarily mean pumping money into initiatives. Rather it can mean doing something as obvious as not littering. Or, if you own property along the river, choosing to let the banks of the river “go natural” rather than running a mowed and chemically treated lawn up to the river’s edge. (A natural shoreline prevents bank erosion, filters sediment and runoff, provides habitat for riparian creatures and deters nuisance geese).
We can be more mindful about what runs off our streets and into storm drains because these flow directly to local waterways such as the Rogue. We can choose to leave a tree canopy over the river to keep its temperature cool and steady for the sensitive trout. We could cut back, or just not use, pesticides so insects can provide food for fish and reptiles.
There are many things we can do as individuals and business owners to protect and preserve the Rogue River. Its economic benefits help support the local economy. The social benefits are – well, take a stroll along the river with a loved one this summer, or watch a family of turtles sun themselves on a log and you’ll see.
The Rogue River Watershed Council is dedicated to the long-term protection and restoration of the Rogue River and its tributaries through community stewardship, education and watershed-based planning.
If you would like more information log onto www.gvsu.edu/wri/isc and click on Rogue River Watershed Project and choose Rogue River Watershed Council. You can become a member of the Rogue River Watershed Council by calling Andy Bowman at (616) 776-3876.
PROTECTING OUR ENVIRONMENT – The Rogue River Watershed Council is a local organization founded in 2004, with the goal promoting education and preservation of the RRW. They meet monthly in Rockford and would love to have members, guests or input.