50th Anniversary of the Shoreland Management Act

cabin along the water in becker county

The rapid increase of shoreland development in the 1960s raised concerns that unplanned growth was negatively affecting shoreland character, animal habitat, and clean water important to all Minnesotans. In the late 1960s, researchers, business leaders, local governments, builders and legislators worked together to pass the 1969 Shoreland Management Act. This act was one of the first state efforts in the nation to protect shorelands and, along with the Floodplain Management Act, the first time Minnesota guided local land use for resource protection.

The Shoreland Act resulted in statewide regulations that guide development of land along lakes and rivers through local zoning ordinances. The purposes was to minimize development impacts to water quality, habitat and lakeshore character. The regulations include standards for minimum lot size, structure and septic system setbacks from lakes and rivers, building height, and vegetation and land alteration. Prior to the Shoreland Act, land development around lakes and rivers was unregulated.
black and white photo of a beachRegarding the 1969 Shoreland Management Act, "Its basic purposes is to guide development of lakeshores to maintain the natural enviroment, preserve the quality of our lakes and rivers and help stabilize the economy of shorelands, for lakeshores provide an important tax base that unwise development can depreciate." Photo credit: Fergus Falls Daily Journal


Shoreland Photo Contest

Celebrate the 50th anniversary of the Shoreland Management Act by checking out the shoreland photo contest winners.

The winning photos will also be displayed at the DNR building during the Minnesota State Fair. The shoreland photo contest deadline for submissions was August 5th.  


Natural Shores = Healthy Shores

The decisions that property owners make have a direct impact on the health of lakes and rivers. The single most important decision is maintain and/or restore natural vegetation along your shoreline. Natural vegetation:

  • Holds soil in place protecting shorelines from increasingly intensive rain events and rising water levels
  • Slows runoff and stores moisture
  • Filters out nutrients, which along with rising lake temperatures, accelerates algae blooms
  • Provides habitat so species can survive in a changing climate
  • Increases property values by keeping lakes clean

For ideas on how to maintain or restore, please see Lakescaping and shoreland restoration


natural shores equal healthy shores - cabin, butterfly, loon, fish and turtle


Shoreland development, then and now

Good development standards are important now more than ever to address current trends.

Development Size and Scale

single story house near the water. there is a dock in the water

Small seasonal cabins under 1,000 square feet were common in the 1960s and 1970s.

a two-story house near the water. a dock with three boat slips is out front

Large homes (3,000 square feet or larger) became increasingly common starting in the late 1990s.

Vegetation and Landscaping

log cabin home near water, a dock and two chairs are in front of the cabin

Most shoreland lots in the 1960s and 1970s featured natural vegetation and little hardcover.

a large cabin near the water, rocks replace grass

Over time, more shoreland lots feature highly altered suburban-style landscaping. Natural vegetation is replaced with turf and hard cover.


ariel view of a lot of land near water

Many homes and cabins were built on small lots close to the water in the 1960s. Most were small in scale and proportional to the small lot size.

ariel view of a land of land near water with a house

Over time, the homes and cabins on these small lots have been replaced with much larger homes. This results in much higher levels of hard surface and stormwater runoff.


State and Local Governments

Partners in Shoreland Management

Under the Shoreland Management Act, the DNR establishes shoreland regulations. Counties and cities implement those regulations through local zoning. The day-to-day work of cities and counties guide shoreland property owners to make the best possible development decisions. It's a difficult job but their efforts protect shoreline resources for the benefit of all Minnesotans. Many counties are going over and beyond the minimum shoreland regulations, and have adopted higher standards in their zoning ordinances.

Making of Minnesota's 1969 Act and the Shoreland Program

Minnesotans came together in the 1960s to ensure that development protected natural lake and river shorelines that are central to our identify as Minnesotans and for future Minnesotans.