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Removal of Shoreline Vegetation

Maintaining a naturally vegetated buffer is one of the best things you as a shoreline property owner can do. It's a critical component to a healthy lake or stream. Here, fallen leaves and wood are broken down and digested by insects and microorganisms that in thurn provide food for fish and other predators futher up the food chain. Larger woody debris is colonized by aquatic insects and used as hiding places. Standing dead trees provide homes for cavity nesting birds like wood ducks and woodpeckers. Other species also use these snags for resting or feeding perches.

Vegetation hanging into the water, fallen trees, and vegetation in the littoral zone, the shallow border of a lake or stream, reduce wave energy. Trees and shrubs growing on the shore hold soil in place. The result is little shoreline erosion. A turf lawn provides none of these benefits.

The littoral zone and buffer are critical fish and wildlife habitat.

  • 90% of all living things found in our lakes and streams live along the shallow margins and shores.
  • There is 500% more species diversity near the water's edge, as compared to adjoining uplands.
  • Research in Nothern Wisconsin found that bluegill productivity and growth rates dropped by 260% on highly developed lakes compared to undeveloped lakes.
  • Other research using underwater cameras found that fish spend up to 700% more time along undeveloped shores than developed shores.

    Natural shoreland vegetation traps polluted runoff and prevents silt from choking spawning beds and other productive areas within lakes and streams that are typically rich with aquatic life. Leaf litter on the ground acts as a sponge to soak up rain and slowly release it to plant roots or ground seepage.

    A natural buffer also provides privacy - a rare commodity these days. Light from yard and headlights cannot shine in windows at night from across the lake if trees and shrubs are in place. We can better enjoy a full moon, a starlit sky, or a bonfire without the intrusion of unnatural light.

    We all know how sound travels across a water body on a calm night. An intact buffer blocks and absorbs noise that would otherwise limit our enjoyment of natural sounds. Peace and quiet was the second most important reason for owning property according to a survey of Wisconsin lakefront property owners. What was the most important reason to settle on lakeshores according to that same survey? Natural scenic beauty!

    So, rather than clearing your property of vegetation before construction even begins, leave the buffer intact until you move in. You might need to remove a lot less vegetation than you thought to have a view of the lake. Take time to understand and appreciate the pleasures and benefits of being surrounded by nature before you fire up the chain saw. Wildlife, and your neighbors, will thank you.

    The Marinette County Shoreland/Wetland Zoning Code maintains a 35-foot vegetation zone from the OHWM in which:

    A  view and access corridor (35% of shoreline frotage) may be cut, but sufficient trees, shrubs, and groundcover plants must be left to screen structures as seen from the lake.

    Outside of the view and access corridor, vegetation cutting should be limited for the purpose of preventing erosion, slowing the flow of pollutants, protecting wildlife habitat, and preserving natural beauty.