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,
• 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.