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  • Jodi Eberhardt

How to Create a Shoreland Buffer

Before You Start

There are a number of ways to create a shoreland buffer

depending on the characteristics of the shoreland and the

desires of the property owner. Before you decide how to

approach establishing a shoreland buffer, thoughtfully

assess your shoreline and what you want to accomplish.

• Do you have erosion problems to correct? Problems

with Canada geese? What kind of wildlife would you

like to attract?

• Consider the specific conditions at your site, including

light, moisture, orientation, and degree of slope.

• Identify soil type and the type of lake bottom (mucky,

sandy, rocky).

• Think about where you’re located on the lake – do you

get a lot of wind and wave action, or direct sunlight for

much of the day? Shoreline revegetation is most likely

to succeed in areas that are sheltered and experience

little or moderate wave action, do not experience significant

changes in water level during the growing season,

and are not very steep.

• Also consider the different ways you use the shoreland

area and the amount of shoreland that you want to

restore. How much area is really needed for lake

access for boats and swimming? Limiting the beach

and dock area to 15-20 feet and leaving the rest of the

shoreline natural is ideal to have both the benefits of

the buffer zone while having recreational access to the

lake. Resource professionals recommend that you

maintain a shoreland buffer along 75% of the shoreline


Next, decide how you want to establish a shoreland buffer.

Here are some options.

Don’t Mow, Let It Grow

A simple, no-cost way to get

started in restoring your shoreland is to stop mowing for

the width of the desired buffer strip. Turf grasses will grow

12-24 inches before going to seed, after which seeds in

the soil will germinate and valuable native plants will begin

to appear. You can note the types of native plants and

wildflowers growing on natural shorelands around lake to

get an idea of what is likely to appear or will be suitable for

growing in your area. While the buffer is getting established,

you may need to weed out nuisance species or add

native plants for diversity, but not mowing will get you

started. Over time, shrubs and trees will naturally fill in and

provide a more diverse plant cover.


Many of the local nurseries and garden centers now carry native plant stock and can

recommend the best plants for your site. Plants used should be indigenous to this region

of Minnesota—don’t buy plants from a mail order catalog grown in another part of the

country and expect them to grow. The DNR website has a list of native plant suppliers

and landscapers. Consult with the Crow Wing County Extension office, DNR Shoreland

Restoration specialists, or the Crow Wing Soil and Water Conservation District for

resources and fact sheets on designing your project, selecting plants, preparing the site,

and planting. Take one of the many classes offered throughout the summer on the

basics of shoreland restoration. Professionals teaching the classes will help you design

your own project and may later be available for further consultation. Many classes

include an opportunity to participate in the planting of a restoration project to give you

experience for planting your own project.

The book Lakescaping for Wildlife is a great place to start.

started. Financial assistance for your project may be available;

check with the local Soil and Water Conservation District

or the DNR Shoreland Habitat Restoration Grant Program.

Hire a Professional

Shoreland restoration is a rapidly growing field among landscape professionals.. Ask for recommendations from other property owners who have completed revegetation projects. When working with a professional you should expect a detailed site analysis, a site plan developed with you and your interests taken into consideration, and professionally installed plantings. They may also be available for maintenance of your site as it’s getting established. If your site has a steep slope or other unusual characteristics, getting professional assistance will be important to the success of your project.

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