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Get Involved in the Lake Leaders Institute


Crew 16 - planned for 2026​

A nomination form for Crew 16 will be available in mid-late 2025.

Lake Leaders Institute Costs​

Becoming a Wisconsin Lake Leader is often a life-changing event. The skills, knowledge and connections created while part of a crew are invaluable. But before considering becoming a Lake Leader, please think about the investment and commitment that you are willing to make. You will benefit in ways you cannot imagine, but it is best to go in knowing what will be expected of you in return.

Your Monetary Investment

The Wisconsin Lakes Partnership is able to cover most of the operational costs of the Lake Leaders Institute so that the participants are only expected to invest $350. These costs cover lodging, meals, field trips, equipment and materials during each of the three two-day sessions. Some participants are able to secure financial support from a local lake organization or other sponsorship.

Your Personal Commitment

Your main investment will be your continued commitment to Wisconsin's lakes. Graduates have taken their new skills and personal connections back to their communities and are helping to preserve and protect Wisconsin waters. Graduates have been elected to town boards, county lake associations, the Wisconsin Lakes board, and teams developing state water policy. 


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Lake Leaders Institute Schedule

The core curriculum is delivered every other year and held during even numbered years. There are three focused seminars that are used as the backdrop of the training. 


Each session lasts for two days and they are typically held between May and October at retreat type centers in lake-rich areas around the state. During each session, participants take field trips, enjoy lake and aquatic environments, exchange ideas and network with each other and presenters, and develop friendships with go-to colleagues for future lake work. The Institute seminars are designed to stretch the minds of people. We explore new ideas about lakes and the management of human use of lakes. Along the way we have fun too.

Seminar 1 - Society and Environment: Philosophy and Ethics of Lake Management

The first seminar is typically held in mid-May and offers several introspective and networking opportunities to crew members:
  • It serves as an icebreaker for the new crew’s expectations and a warm up to the experience ahead of them;
  • It is a feeling-out process and an opportunity for crew members to begin to get to know each other;
  • It provides a historical perspective to lake management and stewardship activities in Wisconsin and within the overall environmental landscape;
  • It allows crew members to spend time exploring themselves internally, including their completion of a personality instrument and small group team building exercises;
  • It gives crew members the opportunity to explore and examine ethics and social responsibility ideas, linking their values to their future lake work; and
  • It allows Native American educators to spend time with crew members to share the cultural traditions of Wisconsin’s native people.
During this first seminar, the participants begin to meet the program facilitators and start to identify people for their future lake network. They are also exposed to grass-root level lake projects and activities used as case studies to illustrate the types of future lake stewardship they may want to participate in for their own lake communities.
Usually the most fun is had with crew members using a personality instrument to identify four temperaments common to all people. It provides users with an effective tool for understanding human behavior, for uncovering motivators specific to each temperament and for improving their communication skills.

Seminar 2 - Aquatic Ecology and Watershed Management: Impact of Development on Lakes

The second seminar is typically held in mid-September and provides an opportunity for crew members to enhance their knowledge of aquatic ecosystems, lake ecology, and human impacts to lakes. The session includes on-the-water stations designed to illustrate elements of lake management and aquatic ecology. Lakeshore development is discussed within a watershed framework and according to assorted lake types and characteristics.

S​eminar 3 - Organizations, People, Politics

The final two-day seminar of the Wisconsin Lake Leaders Institute is typically held in mid-October and pulls together how organizations and people can work together on a political front. Strategies for effective citizen advocacy are reviewed as are basic civic ideas related to advocacy at the local, county, and state levels. A historical perspective and case study storyline is presented of the foundational concept to Wisconsin water law known as the Public Trust Doctrine.
Professionals and lobbyists involved with lake conservation and protection at the town, county, and state levels spend significant time with crew members, giving them a glimpse at how lake issues are addressed at various points of government interaction. Crew members are encouraged to begin forming regional networks of advocacy. The seeds planted at this last seminar often bud into coalitions of lake management and citizen advocacy for years to come.
Time at the third seminar is also provided for self-reflection. Crew members are asked to think about the ideas, concepts, partnerships, and lake management techniques they have been exposed during their lake leaders journey. Then they are encouraged to write down in a pledge format how they will continue their lake stewardship journey. Lake Leader instructors offer their continued support to crew members as they celebrate graduation; instructors learn as much from crew members as the lake citizens do from them.


​Advanced Lake Leaders

Advanced Lake Leaders training is held during odd numbered years for all past Wisconsin Lake Leaders Institute graduates. The advanced training sessions are generally held during the fall as a two-day workshop. The intent is to continue to increase the knowledge and confidence of Lake Leaders to be more effective advocates for lake conservation. Topics are timely and pertinent, and offer in depth exploration from high-caliber professionals like resource agency staff, researchers, and outreach professionals, who share their insights about the current topic area.

These Advanced training sessions have taken place since 2005 and are dictated by the needs of the Lake Leaders Institute graduates as they work in their communities and assist in the protection of our water resources.




Lake Leaders Institute Program History

In 1998, Wisconsin began a program called the Lake Leaders Institute intended to proactively develop a pool of committed and prepared leaders who could assume leadership roles in policy development, citizen advocacy, county-wide lake associations, municipal government, and officer positions in 900+ individual lake organizations throughout the state. Wisconsin Lake Leaders Institute is designed to assist in developing and enhancing both technical and people skills of citizen leaders. The Institute also seeks to develop networks to share experiences and to encourage participants to learn from each other. Since its genesis, fourteen different crews and over 350 individuals have graduated from the Institute.

A “dream team” of lake professionals has given program organizers a hand in educating and motivating our lake leaders. Instructors come from all walks of the lake world: academia adept in leadership development and citizen advocacy support; research limnologists; government officials; not-for-profit leaders; Native American educators; technical experts from assorted natural resource agencies at the federal, state, county, and town levels; private sector lake-related businesses; Extension outreach specialists; among others.

Together they work towards assisting citizens in developing, enhancing, and employing both their technical and people skills, to enrich their lake communities and the waters within them. Participants learn in an atmosphere of mutual trust, openness, friendship, and camaraderie.

The Lake Leaders Institute has evolved into a remarkable testament to the talent and hard work of those who have participated. Participants have committed to this opportunity to share, study and better understand each other while honing their leadership skills. Graduates of the Institute benefit themselves and their communities by connecting with those responsible for Wisconsin’s lake and water management, and by learning more about aquatic ecology, water law and lake management.

In 2009, the Wisconsin Lake Leaders Institute was the recipient of the National Fish Habitat Action Plan – Outreach & Educational Achievement Award in support of Fish Habitat Conservation.

Lake Leaders Institute Partners

Since its genesis in the early 1970s, the Wisconsin Lakes Partnership has been recognized as a national model of collaboration.

Three groups form the core of this team:

Our team, Extension Lakes, builds connections among stakeholders and provides supporting educational materials and programs; 

The Wisconsin Department of Natural Resources (WDNR) supplies the technical expertise and regulatory authority; 

Local lake people make up the third group, represented by Wisconsin Lakes. Citizen volunteers from around the state - lake organizations, property owners, and local governments - provide the political will and hard work to accomplish watershed restoration and lake protection goals.

We are all concerned with the future of our lakes and have joined together in active cooperation and conscientious planning for lake protection.

The Partnership belongs to everyone concerned with the future of our state’s waters. Individuals, business partners, small groups, and large organizations have all rolled up their sleeves to lend a hand.

The Wisconsin Lakes Partnership is a statewide, multi-faceted effort. Partnership activities include citizen volunteer monitoring, research, youth and adult training and education, aquatic plant protection, pollution prevention, invasive species education, water recreation planning, land and water regulation, and community assistance grants. If you need assistance with any lake-related question or project, the Wisconsin Lakes Partnership can help.


For more informa​tion, contact our office at
(715) 346-2116 or uwexlakes@​
©1993- University of Wisconsin-Stevens Point