Sensitive Lakeshore Identification

Sensitive Lakeshore Identification

Paul Radomski, Project Manager
1601 Minnesota Drive
Brainerd, MN 56401
tel. 218-203-4361

Survey Team:
Donna Perleberg - Aquatic Plant Ecologist
Pam Perry - Nongame Wildlife Lake Biologist
Kristin Carlson - Nongame Wildlife Biologist
Kevin Woizeschke - Nongame Wildlife Biologist
Stephanie Simon - Aquatic Biologist

Project summary

This is a cooperative project between Minnesota Counties, non-profit organizations, and the Minnesota DNR. The goal of the project is to identify areas along lakeshores that provide unique or critical ecological habitat and to use multiple approaches to protect those identified lakeshores.

The DNR established objective, science-based criteria to identify sensitive shoreland parcels on large lakes that counties have identified as high priority sites (e.g., Ten Mile, Woman, Leech, and Pelican lakes). These lakes represent some of Minnesota's largest and most valuable waters. These lakes also contain extensive areas of undeveloped shoreland that would benefit from additional protection.

Local and state resource managers will be able to use the information provided by the Sensitive Lakeshore Identification project to help ensure that sensitive habitats are receiving sufficient protection. Local governments can use Minnesota's Alternative Shoreland Management Standards tools to protect water quality. One of the key tools is a process that allows local governments to increase the protection of ecologically sensitive shoreland. Areas that are identified as sensitive, such as sections of shoreline, whole bays, or whole lakes, can be put into a more protective zoning category (e.g., local governments can reclassify to a natural environment class or district). Lakes that would benefit the most with the application of this innovative tool are some of Minnesota's most valuable lakes-large lakes with significant undeveloped shorelands.

In addition, landowners that have property on sensitive lakes or within sensitive lakeshore areas may be willing to donate permanent conservation easements. Using conservation easements is a long-term strategy to protect critical lands and aquatic habitats, recreational opportunities, and water quality. This voluntary approach is more flexible and can be applied to smaller areas (e.g., shoreland parcels with frontage of hundreds to thousands of feet).

Background information

Sensitive areas are places that provide unique or critical ecological habitat. These areas along the shore or in near-shore areas of the lake are crucial to the health and well-being of fish, wildlife, and native plants. Many fish and wildlife species, including many species of greatest conservation need, are highly dependent on naturally vegetated shorelines as habitat for feeding, resting, and mating and juvenile life stages. Development and land alteration in the immediate shoreland and on the shoreline may have significant negative impacts on these species.


The sensitive lakeshore protocols used by the DNR consist of three components: field surveys to assess habitat quality and use by high priority animal species, an ecological model that objectively incorporates various field assessments into a sensitivity index, and the compilation and delivery of information on sensitive lakeshores to various land and resource managers.

Project partners

  • Cass County, Environmental Services Department

  • Leech Lake Reservation, Division of Resource Management
  • Crow Wing County, Land Services Department
  • Itasca County Soil and Water Conservation District
  • Itasca County Environmental Services Department
  • Aitkin County Soil and Water Conservation District
  • Leech Lake Area Watershed Foundation
  • Minnesota Land Trust


Funding for this effort was provided by the Minnesota Environment and Natural Resources Trust Fund as recommended by the Legislative-Citizen Commission on Minnesota Resources (LCCMR), by the Outdoor Heritage Fund as recommended by the Lessard-Sams Outdoor Heritage Council, and by the State Wildlife Grants program administered by the U.S. Fish and Wildlife Service.