Marine News from the Great Lakes

New Shorelands Program Helps Waterfront Homeowners Improve Shorelines

Published: Wednesday, July 13, 2016

The Michigan Natural Shoreline Partnership recently launched a program to help lakefront homeowners understand best practices to protect their shoreland and inland lakes. The new Michigan Shoreland Stewards Program will recognize inland lake property owners who are using healthy property management practices to protect their inland lakes and offer tips to further improve the shoreline.

The Michigan Natural Shoreline Partnership promotes the use of shoreline best management practices to protect and improve lakeshore habitat and water quality in Michigan’s inland lakes. It is a collaboration of state agencies, academia, nonprofit organizations and private industry.

“Many people think owning lakefront property requires installing a seawall and clearing natural vegetation to make way for a lawn,” said Julia Kirkwood, chair of the Michigan Natural Shoreline Partnership and an environmental quality analyst at the Michigan Department of Environmental Quality. “But these types of activities change the lake ecosystem in ways that are hard to reverse.”

High-impact development activities like seawall and other shoreline structure installation, natural vegetation clearing, and removing aquatic plants and fallen trees from the lake change the ecosystem and allow increased stormwater runoff, increased shoreline erosion and loss of habitat. As the lakeshore habitat deteriorates, animals such as birds, reptiles, amphibians and fish lose important breeding and feeding areas.

The 2007 National Lake Assessment, conducted by DEQ in conjunction with the U.S. Environmental Protection Agency, indicates the loss of lakeshore habitat is the biggest threat to the overall health of Michigan’s inland lakes. Shoreline and nearshore habitat was shown to be in poor condition in more than 40 percent of Michigan‘s inland lakes, and in only fair condition in another 20 percent of lakes, according to the survey.

The Michigan Shoreland Stewards Program addresses this problem by providing recognition for property owners who are fostering natural shorelands on their properties. The program uses a web-based survey to ask property owners how they manage their properties to determine areas for improvement and potentially qualify for a certificate of recognition. Recognized Shoreland Stewards have the option of purchasing a low-cost sign for their properties to promote natural shorelines on their lake.

“We hope property owners will complete the survey to recognize their stewardship potential,” said Joe Nohner, a resource analyst with the Department of Natural Resources, Fisheries Division. “And if a property does not meet the standards for a certificate, the property owner will be provided with suggestions to improve. Then we would encourage them to take the survey again once they’ve implemented changes to their practices.”

For more information about the Michigan Natural Shoreline Partnership, visit To take the Michigan Shoreland Stewardship Program survey, visit

tags: Dept of Natural Resources, Destination, Inland Boating

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