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Stewardship Programs

We can all make choices and take actions that benefit our environment. Below you will find information and links to sites and resources that can lead you in the right direction.


Clean and Green 13

Clean and Green 13 is a project of the Muskoka Watershed Council that aims to inspire people to take a look at their every day lives and realize what kind of impact their actions have on the watersheds around them.

The Clean and Green 13 lists some positive steps that you can take right now to improve the health of your watershed.


David Suzuki Foundation

Since 1990, the David Suzuki Foundation has worked to find ways for society to live in balance with the natural world that sustains us. Focusing on four program areas, Oceans and Sustainable Fishing, Forests and Wild Lands, Climate Change and Clean Energy, and the Web of Life, the Foundation uses science and education to promote solutions that help conserve nature.

The Nature Challenge provides loads of information on how to take care of the planet — at home, at work and in your community.



The Government of Canada ecoACTION website provides information on how you can:

  • Use less energy
  • Conserve water and resources
  • Reduce waste
  • Get involved with local organizations


International Dark-Sky Association

The International Dark-Sky Association (IDA) provides information about stopping the adverse environmental impacts on dark skies by:

  • Building awareness of the problem of light pollution and the solutions.
  • Educating everyone about the value and effectiveness of quality nighttime lighting.


Lake of Bays Heritage Foundation

The Lake of Bays Heritage Foundation is a community-based, non-profit organization committed to protecting the natural, built and cultural heritage of Lake of Bays.

The Lake of Bays Heritage Foundation encourages the protection of our heritage through:

  • Education
  • Voluntary stewardship
  • Conservation easements
  • Land donations
  • Land acquisitions


Ontario Nature

Ontario Nature has a number of publications available for download from their website, including:

  • atlas of the mammals of Ontario
  • a bird checklist
  • factsheets on a variety of topics
  • onplant and animal identification guides
  • nature conservation toolkits


World Wildlife Fund Canada

wwfWorld Wildlife Fund Canada has developed a Living Planet Community where Canadians who are taking action for a living planet can interact and lend their voice to a collective, positive and unified call for everyone - governments, businesses and individuals - to do their part. It's about taking action - together - to make a world of difference. The site provides hundreds of actions you can take for a healthier planet.


At-Home Guide to Water Conservation

The At-Home Guide to Water Conservation contains a number of resources pulled together by Home Intelligence to help you get started with water conservation in your home, including where you can cut down your consumption and how to go about doing it.


Save Water When Traveling

The Go Green Travel Green promotes water conservation when traveling with a webpage full of helpful tips, as well as links to numerous water and energy conservation articles to help reduce the environmental impacts of your travels.


Enviro-Friendly Products

Alternative Cleaners

Many household products that we use everyday may be harmful to the environment and ourselves. These vary from toxic chemicals that are dangerous to inhale to products that can burn skin and cause permanent eye damage.

Even if we are careful when we use these products, when we discharge them into the environment, we expose the environment to these chemicals.

Many cleaning products also contain high levels of phosphates, which can promote algal blooms in surface water. This degrades the water quality of our local waterbodies.

There are alternative cleaners available and many cleaning challenges can be managed with a few basic household products.


Basic Ingredients

Five basic ingredients serve as the building blocks for environmentally friendly home cleaning products:

  • Baking Soda
  • Borax
  • Soap
  • Washing Soda
  • White Vinegar or Lemon Juice

Baking Soda - Cleans and deodorizes. It softens water and is good as a scouring powder.

Borax - Cleans, deodorizes and softens water. Excellent disinfectant.

Soap - Biodegrades safely and completely and is non-toxic. Sold as:

  • Liquid
  • Flakes
  • Powder
  • Bars

Washing Soda - It cuts grease, removes stains, disinfects and softens water.

White Vinegar or Lemon Juice - It cuts grease and freshens.


Sample Recipe

All-Purpose Cleanser - Mix a ½ cup of pure soap (or soap flakes) with a ¼ cup of lemon juice and 1 gallon of hot water.

There are numerous online recipes for all sorts of cleaning problems.


ecologoEcoLogo Program

The EcoLogo Program was developed by Environment Canada and is North America's leading benchmark of environmentally responsible products and services. Established in 1988, the program helps consumers identify products and services that are less harmful to the environment.

Environmental eco-labeling is a voluntary method of environmental performance certification. An eco-label is awarded by an impartial third party, which independently determines if a product or service meets environmental leadership criteria.

Eco-labels are given to products that are deemed to have fewer impacts on the environment than functionally or competitively similar products.

The overall goal of environmental labels is to encourage the demand for and supply of these products as they cause less stress on the environment.

The EcoLogo symbol features three stylized doves intertwined to form a maple leaf. Each dove represents a sector of society:

  • Consumers
  • Industry
  • Government


Through the EcoLogo Program, all three sectors work together to improve Canada's environment.

A product may receive the EcoLogo if it is made or offered in a way that:

  • Improves energy efficiency
  • Reduces hazardous by-products
  • Uses recycled materials
  • Is re-usable
  • Provides some other environmental benefit


Currently, the program has more than 1400 approved products, with 119 licensees and 29 guidelines under which companies may be licensed and their products certified.


Eco-Friendly Products & Services

Eco-friendly products include all-purpose cleaners, tiolet bowl cleaners, dishwasher powders, as well as many others. Many of these products can be found at your local hardware or grocery store.

Healthy Shorelines

The shoreline environment is one of the most important ecosystems that affect the water quality of a lake. Special attention must be given to protecting and restoring shoreline environments. A healthy natural shoreline maintains water quality and provides vital habitat.

Vegetated shorelines filter the surface water runoff from upland areas. This runoff can carry harmful sediments, chemicals and nutrients that eventually end up in the lake. Shoreline vegetation can help stop and slow this potentially harmful surface runoff.

Shoreline vegetation also protects water quality by preventing erosion of its banks. This erosion can cause damage to fish spawning areas and may lead to a decrease in the value of your property.

The shoreline area also aids in overall lake health by providing a unique ecosystem in which many aquatic and terrestrial species depend during a part, or all, of their life cycle.


Shoreline Protection

Preservation of shoreline areas is the first step in maintaining water quality. To protect the current state of a shoreline it is recommended that:

  • Existing natural shoreline be maintained
  • Lawn fertilizers not be used
  • Artificial beaches not be created and all natural vegetation, including fallen trees, remain untouched.

Shoreline buffers are a critical component of the shoreline environment. It is important to maintain a natural buffer zone between a waterbody and its upland area in order to protect both water quality and quantity.

Protecting an existing natural shoreline buffer involves allowing Mother Nature to grow and flourish. This includes restricting development in the shoreline area and pruning trees for views rather than removing them.

Restoring a shoreline buffer zone also requires Mother Nature's assistance. If you would like to plant new vegetation, ensure it is a species native to your area and is suitable to the wet conditions found in the shoreline environment. For more information about native vegetation in Muskoka, contact your local nursery or landscaping center.



  • The Muskoka Watershed Council has prepared a Shoreline Vegetative Buffers Report that outlines the importance of shoreline buffers, why they need to be protected and how to create the best suitable buffer for your shoreline.
  • The Shore Primer and The Dock Primer are publications produced by Cottage Life, the Federation of Ontario Cottagers' Associations, the Living By Water Project, and Fisheries and Oceans Canada. While some regulations have been updated since publication, the general information contained in these two documents is useful. The Shore Primer outlines the importance of maintaining the shoreline environment and The Dock Primer outlines what to do when constructing a dock on your shoreline.
  • The Rideau Valley Conservation Authority's LandOwner Resource Center is a one-stop information shop where landowners can find the environmental information they need to make wise, informed decisions regarding their property. The Ministry of Natural Resources has developed a series of Extension Notes that cover agro forestry, forestry, insects and pests, water, wetlands and wildlife topics. Preserving and Restoring Natural Shorelines outlines many different ways landowners can protect and restore their existing shorelines. It also provides background information on native and non-native vegetation and why it is so important to maintain a natural shoreline.


Shoreline Restoration

If your property does not have an adequate shoreline buffer zone or has an altered shoreline, action should be taken to restore the area.

Shoreline restoration involves creating a new shoreline vegetative buffer zone and creating and maintaining water smart shoreline structures. To start, determine the width of the buffer zone needed for the topography of your property. Next, stop mowing this area and in a few months natural vegetation will begin to grow with no cost or time spent planting new vegetation. Hand weed undesirable or invasive species as they appear to keep them to a minimum.

Once your shoreline buffer is established, a narrow natural pathway to the water's edge can be created to replace large flagstone or wooden boardwalks. By reducing the width of the shoreline access route, it will allow for more natural vegetation to grow. By eliminating hardened surfaces, the flow of surface water runoff will be slowed. Both factors help protect water quality.


What you need to know

The primary pieces of legislation governing projects being carried out in or around water are the provincial Public Lands Act and the federal Fisheries Act. Other legislation may also apply depending on the impacts of the activity such as the Endangered Species Act, 2007.

Section 14 of the Public Lands Act requires you to obtain a Work Permit authorizing specific activities and works on public lands and shore lands. Contact your local Ministry of Natural Resources and Forestry office (Bracebridge: 705-645-8747 Parry Sound: 705-746-4201) to make an appointment to speak with a Ministry staff person. Learn more about Work Permits at

If your project is located in an area where there are known or presumed occurrences of Threatened or Endangered Species at Risk, the Endangered Species Act may be applicable depending on the potential impacts of your activities. The local MNRF office will be able to provide more information.

The Fisheries Act provides for the protection of fish habitat. Under this Act, no one may carry out any projects that result in the harmful alteration, disruption or destruction of fish habitat (HADD) unless authorized by Fisheries and Oceans Canada. The Act also prohibits the release of harmful substances into water containing fish. Learn more about the 2012/2013 amendments to the Fisheries Act at

For projects above the high water mark, municipal cut and fill by-laws or development permit by-laws may be applicable. Contact your local area municipality for more information.

If your project is located within the Trent-Severn Waterway, consult with Parks Canada (see Policies for In-water and Shoreline Works and Related Activities available at

It is your responsibility to contact all necessary agencies and comply with all existing laws and regulatory requirements. Approvals may be required from several agencies, including those not discussed above. Approval from one agency does not guarantee approval from another agency.



  • Restoring a hardened shoreline is a difficult process. Step-by-step directions are available in the Restore Your Shore Stewardship Guide produced by the Muskoka Watershed Council.
  • The LandOwner Resource Centre has Extension Notes on Restoring Shorelines With Willows. It outlines why willows are an important first step in any shoreline restoration project. It provides information on where to get willows for planting, site preparation, planting techniques and future maintenance. Local nurseries and landscaping centers can also recommend other suitable native vegetation that can be planted along your shoreline.


Building Docks and Boathouses

Docks and boathouses go hand-in-hand when thinking about shoreline environments. These man-made structures act as the bridge between the land and the water. They are often the central gathering place for many summertime activities. However, these structures alter the natural shoreline environment and can lead to the degradation of water quality.

To avoid these negative affects, precautions must be taken when designing, building and maintaining a dock or boathouse. Some things to consider when building a dock or boathouse are:

  • The size and shape
  • Location on shoreline
  • Type of support structures
  • Building materials
  • Personal usage


What you need to know

One of the most important steps in the design process of any shoreline structure is the building application process. Many government agencies may have to approve your structure before building begins. This process can differ depending on the type and size of the structure, regional jurisdiction and sensitivity and uniqueness of your shoreline and aquatic environment.

The first step is determining if your planned dock or boathouse will require approval from the Ministry of Natural Resources and Forestry and/or Fisheries and Oceans Canada. The Work Permits section of the MNRF website is a good place to start.

If your planned structure requires a work permit, the next step is to contact your local Area Municipal office and follow the directions recommended by their building department. It is important to note that the Trent-Severn Waterway (including the Severn River) are under federal jurisdiction. In this case, Parks Canada grants approval for in-water and shoreline work in these areas.

Fisheries and Oceans Canada (DFO) may also have to review your shoreline development application. This federal government agency is responsible for administering the Fisheries Act, which regulates the protection of fish habitat and the prevention of pollution in all of Canada, including private property in every province and territory. This includes your shoreline environment. The Fisheries and Oceans Canada website provides a Projects Near Water section that outlines what you need to know before you begin any shoreline project. It also outlines some best management practices that should be followed if your project does not require a permit.

If your project is located in an area where there are known or presumed occurrences of Threatened or Endangered Species at Risk, the Endangered Species Act may be applicable. Depending on the potential impacts of your activities timing restrictions to protect Species at Risk may apply. Your local MNR office will be able to provide more information.


Procedures and materials

When you are ready to begin building, it is important to continue to proceed in an environmentally friendly manner. Choose the right building materials and assemble your structures on upland areas instead of near or in the water. The Living by Water Project website features construction tips that describe how to protect water quality and your property during construction.

You should use galvanized steel brackets and corrosion resistant screws, bolts and nuts. Using screws, as opposed to nails, will provide increased strength and longevity to a new dock system. These building hardware choices involve more of an initial cost, but the savings are rewarded over the lifespan of the dock structure.

Another decision to make before construction begins is the type of building materials to use. Wood is the most common material used in dock construction. It provides a strong support and frame system, is reasonably priced and is easy to work with. There are many different types of wood, each with their own strengths and weaknesses.

The Dock Primer describes the advantages and disadvantages of different dock construction materials. It is a publication produced by Cottage Life and Fisheries and Oceans Canada. It outlines an environmentally friendly way to plan for, design and build a dock system. It describes the different building materials that can be used, the type and shape of the dock that best suits the shoreline environment and your personal needs.

One controversial issue is the use of pressure treated wood for dock and boathouse construction. This wood was developed with the intent to provide superior resistance to insect damage and natural rotting. It is also inexpensive considering its longevity. The concern is that the chemicals used when making these woods are toxic. During the construction phase, sawdust and scrap pieces can enter a lake and thereby transport the toxic chemicals directly into the waterbody.

For more information regarding pressure treated wood, please visit the following links:

All of these design and building choices are important for maintaining and protecting the natural shoreline ecosystem, which is essential for protecting water quality and quantity.


Factsheets and Permits

If your project includes the use of a herbicide for the control of aquatic plants, you must obtain a permit issued by the Ministry of the Environment (MOE) under the Pesticides Act.

If your project involves dredging or the removal of rocks and sediment from the lake bottom, you may require a Work Permit from the Ministry of Natural Resources.

If your project is located in an area where there are known or presumed occurrences of Threatened or Endangered Species at Risk, the Ministry of Natural Resources will review your activities for potential impacts and provide information about the Endangered Species Act.

Failure to obtain the proper permits for an in-water building project can result in substantial fines of up to $1,000,000, risk of imprisonment and a requirement to cover the costs of returning the site to its natural state.

Building in and around water is a serious issue and should not be taken lightly. Fish habitat is very sensitive to change, Species at Risk could be impacted, and the bottom of lakes and rivers are legally public land; therefore it is everyone's responsibility to protect and preserve these unique ecosystems.

Gardening & Landscaping 

Importance of Shoreline Buffers

Natural shoreline vegetation plays an important role in maintaining water quality; therefore, by removing vegetation and altering your waterfront landscape, you can directly impact the water quality of your lake.

Natural vegetation along a shoreline will protect against soil erosion, filter pollutants from runoff water, trap excess nutrients, provide aquatic and terrestrial habitat for plants and animals, and reduce the need for fertilizers and pesticides. It will also cost you less to build and maintain.

A riparian buffer zone of trees, shrubs and grasses will filter sediments, fertilizers, pesticides and other contaminants that reduce water quality and destroy fish habitat. The buffer zone will also prevent erosion at the water's edge and improve fish habitat by shading and cooling the water. The buffer zone provides protective cover for birds, mammals and other wildlife that feed, breed and rear their young near the water.

Man-made features such as retaining walls disturb the growth of natural vegetation, both in the shallow water and water's edge. They also cause waves to stir up sediments that are harmful to fish habitat.

What are some common waterfront landscaping problems and solutions?


Native vs Non-Native Plants

Native plants and landscapes have many benefits for the environment and surrounding communities. By planting native plants on your property (especially along the shoreline) you are providing:

  • Plants with deep roots to help retain water and prevent erosion
  • Better time and cost management
  • Improved water quality as the plants help filter runoff
  • Wildlife habitat
  • An area that deters nuisance wildlife like geese
  • An area less likely to be colonized by invasive species
  • Cooler water temperatures and increased fish habitat


Native Species in Muskoka

Vegetation within the riparian zone (closest to the water's edge) must be water tolerant and have a deep root system to stabilize soils and reduce erosion. 

Trees found along the shoreline include:

Shrubs found along the shoreline include:

Prune trees for views rather than removing them, and allow Mother Nature to establish natural plant colonies.

Every spring, various Muskoka organizations hold native plant sales, including the Muskoka Conservancy, the Muskoka Lakes Association, and the Lake of Bays Heritage Foundation.


Local Nurseries

Check your local yellow pages for a complete list of garden centres and nurseries that carry native plant species.


Healthy Lawn Care

There are many steps that can be taken to reduce the use of pesticides and fertilizers. Pesticides include insecticides, herbicides, and fungicides, which are designed to kill insects, weeds, and diseases respectively. Both the federal and provincial governments regulate pesticides. Before a pesticide product may be sold or used in Ontario, it must be classified.

Prevention is an easy step that saves you time in the long run and only requires a little initial planning.

  • Plant native species, as they are heartier and more resistant to pests and diseases.
  • Choose plants appropriate for the site's drainage, sun exposure and soil type.
  • Consider companion planting, which involves strategic plantings (one plant repels the pests that another may attract).
  • The more the merrier. By integrating a variety of plants into your yard, you are more likely to create a balanced ecosystem.
  • Keep your yard as natural as possible. Using more trees, groundcovers, flowers and mulches helps prevent diseases.
  • Raised beds allow for closer plantings, more root development, and exceptional drainage.
  • Perform crop rotation and encourage garden diversity.
  • Pay attention to your garden with regular monitoring.
  • Know which insects are beneficial and which are not.

When maintaining your property, only remove dead or diseased portions of trees, shrubs and other vegetation. Hand picking weeds is an effective, environmentally friendly way of managing plant pests.

Mow no more than 1/3 of the grass blade and leave clippings on the lawn to return nutrients to the soil.

Natural pest control products can be found at local nurseries or hardware stores.

  • Horticultural oils are popular for controlling pests on ornamental plants.
  • Insecticidal soap can be used for aphid, mite and whitefly control.
  • Neem seed extract works as a repellant, growth regulator and insect poison.
  • Diatomaceous earth can be used for insect and mite management.

A trap can also be very effective. You just need to attract the pest to a container from which they can't escape.

Healthy soil contains organic matter in various stages of decomposition. High fungi, bacteria and other microscopic life are signs of a good soil. They break down organic matter into carbon, nitrogen and other elements, which are then taken up by plant roots for food. The more organic matter in your soil, the better.

Mulches are materials placed on top of the soil and are effective in reducing weed and insect pests. Mulches can include:

  • Compost
  • Bark
  • Grass clippings

Beneficial insects are a great addition to your property, including:

  • Ladybugs
  • Green lacewings
  • Predatory mites
  • Parasitic nematodes

These are available at various supply houses and cannot be used in combination with a pesticide.


For More Information

Waterfront Living
Enjoy Muskoka's water responsibly

The beauty of Muskoka's lakes and rivers have drawn people to its shores for generations. As more and more people call Muskoka home, the necessity of living within our available resources becomes increasingly important. This section provides information on how to be more sustainable in your day-to-day living.

Muskoka also provides an abundance of water-related recreational activities, including boating, swimming, and fishing. Discover how to enjoy Muskoka while minimizing your impact on our water resources.