The Lake Erie CWMA’s involvement with permitting, laws and ordinances is fairly limited. In-house landowner agreements are created with participating properties that include liability agreements to protect both the CWMA and the landowner. Liability when working on private property can be a serious issue and as a result the CWMA now utilizes contractors exclusively for all work.
In many cases contractors handle all permitting, but assistance for landowners is available. Once the CWMA is contacted by a landowner interested in treatment, the first step is to do an on-site analysis. Once support criteria have been assessed for the property, a contract is sent to the landowner that includes the landowner agreements. The landowner agreement is as follows: I have voluntarily enrolled in this program/service offered through LECWMA. I recognize that the program/service may involve the use of pesticides and other various management techniques that alter the landscape. I hereby affirm that I am aware of such activities to be performed and consent to LECWMA and its subcontractor’s performing such activities.
Privately-owned duck hunting clubs were integral to the formation of the LECWMA and now represent half to three-quarters of program membership. Each of the 25 hunting clubs manages their own private landholdings 15 to 3,000 acres in size. The first year of helicopter Phragmites control was funded a combination of funding from The Marsh Conservancy and Fish and Wildlife Service matched with donations from large duck hunting clubs. In subsequent years, a number of partners joined the program including several small duck hunting clubs, county parks, state parks, local landowners, agricultural producers, and industrial properties. The Nature Conservancy and Division of Wildlife also partnered and assisted with funding.
For the first five years, herbicide projects were not prioritized and participants signed up on a first-come-first-served basis. In recent years the CWMA transitioned to a cost-sharing program to help landowners fund their projects and to give participants a vested interest in ensuring all permit and liability issues are covered properly. A standardized ranking matrix is now used to determine project priority. Properties are evaluated based on size and proximity to the coast line among other factors. The ranking determines the rate of cost-share that the applicant receives, from 25% to as low as 0%. In the case of a 0% cost share, participants still benefit from the program through coordination of helicopter spraying and other logistics.
The CWMA is at the tail end of a GLRI grant and is transitioning to a cost sharing model that reflects this reduction in funding, particularly for high-cost helicopter control work. Going forward, landowners will be required to put forward a greater share of control costs. The CWMA does have funding for a Technical Assistance Coordinator who will manage outreach, project applications, and other logistics. A new equipment-share program will further increase the capacity of landowners to undertake their own control work.
In terms of the governance structure of the program, the Technical Assistance Coordinate coordinates between contractors and landowners and reports back to project partners through a steering committee. The steering committee meets approximately quarterly with email discussion in between
Public information meetings with landowners are held each year in March and July.