One of the most endangered natural habitats in Minnesota is native lakeshore.
What is often considered the stereotype of the "perfect" lakeshore -- open manicured bluegrass lawn right down to the water's edge with all the aquatic plants removed and a sand blanket installed for a swimming beach -- is not good for the lake.
With this type of shoreline, fish populations start to decline from lack of habitat. There are fewer wildlife and birds along the shore. Canada geese can become a problem. The lake can become green from algae growth stimulated by runoff of fertilizers and other lawn practices. The lake system is thrown out of balance and consequently natural lakeshore can become an endangered habitat.
Instead of the stereotype lawn, establish a buffer zone of natural vegetation along the shoreline to create a balance with nature that requires less maintenance and chemicals and results in better water quality, and leave any emergent vegetation, like bulrushes and cattails, in place.
A buffer zone is a natural strip of vegetation along at least 75 percent of a property's frontage and extends into both the land and water to a distance of at least 25 to 50 feet, where possible. The goal is to restore the shoreline with the vegetation that was there in the first place, while providing for reasonable lake access and recreational opportunities.
Natural buffer zones solve many problems. Bulrushes and cattails reduce shoreline erosion caused by wind and boat traffic, they help purify the water by removing contaminants, and provide homes for fish and wildlife. Natural shoreline vegetation is a filter strip that helps prevent lawn fertilizer and pesticide runoff from reaching the lake and helps prevent shoreland erosion. Unmowed areas deter Canada geese from loitering on the lawn, and there is more time to enjoy the lake instead of mowing.
For more specifics on how to establish natural buffer zones, purchase the book "Lakescaping for Wildlife and Water Quality" available at any major bookstore in Minnesota. Or, order from the Minnesota Bookstore at 800-657-3757. A new CD-ROM "Restore your Shore" is also available from the Minnesota Bookstore. See the article "Shoreland Best Management Practices" at http://mnlakes.org/main_dev/Best_Management_practices.cfm.
Protect your shore -- it's up to all of us to Protect Our Waters.
(This column sponsored by the Crow Wing County Water Planning Task Force and the Minnesota Lakes Association.)
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