Intralake Zoning to Protect Sensitive Lakeshore Areas

Project Details by Fiscal Year
2009 Fiscal Year Funding Amount
Fund Source
Environment & Natural Resources Trust Fund
Recipient Type
State Government
Start Date
July 2008
End Date
June 2011
Legal Citation / Subdivision
M.L. 2008, Chp. 367, Sec. 2, Subd. 04e
Appropriation Language

$125,000 is from the trust fund to the commissioner of natural resources for the second appropriation for a cooperative effort with Cass County to identify sensitive shorelines for the highest priority lakes and develop innovative zoning in Cass County to protect water quality and near-shore habitat. This appropriation is available until June 30, 2011, at which time the project must be completed and final products delivered, unless an earlier date is specified in the work program.

2009 Fiscal Year Funding Amount
Proposed Measurable Outcome(s)

Click on "Final Report" under "Project Details".

Measurable Outcome(s)

Click on "Final Report" under "Project Details".

Project Overview

Overall Project Outcome and Results
Protection of critical fish and wildlife habitat, particularly for "species in greatest conservation need", is necessary given the substantial near-shore habitat losses estimated to date and the losses projected with future shoreland development. This cooperative Cass County/State project identified sensitive shoreland for the county's largest and most valuable waters. The project used objective, science-based criteria to identify sensitive shoreland parcels. Cass County selected seventeen lakes that were the highest priority for assessment (e.g., Ten Mile, Woman, and Leech). The objectives of this project were to: (1) identify and map sensitive shorelands, (2) develop and adopt shoreland ordinances to provide greater protection to sensitive areas, and (3) propose and implement zoning districts for identified sensitive shorelands.

Biological surveys were completed on the 17 priority lakes, as well as three connecting waterbodies. Species presence was recorded in extensive spatial detail. Botanists documented a total of 69 native aquatic plant taxa, including 42 submerged and free-floating, 7 floating-leaf, and 20 emergent taxa. Surveyors mapped over 2,000 acres of bulrush, and over 6,000 acres of other emergent and floating-leaf plant stands. Seventeen unique or rare plant species were documented. Biologists recorded four fish species in greatest conservation need. Pugnose shiners were the most widespread of these species, and were recorded on 10 study lakes. Longear sunfish, least darters, and greater redhorse were collected on four lakes each. Biologists documented 161 bird species, including 45 species in greatest conservation need. Four of these species are listed as Threatened in Minnesota and seven species are of Special Concern status. Mink and green frog breeding locations were identified on all surveyed lakes.

A total of 190.2 miles of shoreline, representing 40% of the total shoreline miles, were identified as sensitive. Nearly 28,000 acres of shoreland were identified as sensitive. Cass County proposed and adopted innovative zoning provisions within their shoreland ordinance to protect water quality and near-shore habitat.

Project Results Use and Dissemination
We completed sensitive lakeshore assessments on the 17 priority lakes, as well as three connecting waterbodies. Lake reports summarizing sensitive lakeshore assessments were completed for the 20 lakes. These reports describe the results of the biological surveys and provide maps of identified sensitive lakeshore. Reports were distributed to Cass County as well as to interested lake associations, organizations, and individuals. They are also available online at:

Public presentations explaining the sensitive area identification process and results were given to the Cass County Board of Commissioners, Cass County Planning Commission, Association of Cass County Lake Associations, U.S. Forest Service, multiple lake associations, and many other groups.

Several organizations have used the sensitive lakeshore identification information to help protect critical and vulnerable lakeshore areas. In 2010, Cass County received Environment & Natural Resource Trust Fund monies to provide assistance for donation of conservation easements to protect sensitive shoreland parcels in Cass County. The Leech Lake Area Watershed Foundation has identified large, undeveloped parcels that when overlaid with areas of sensitive shoreland have become priorities for conservation easements and acquisition. Recently implemented conservation easements on Wabedo Lake properties protect from development over 3500 feet of shoreline and nearly 70 acres of shoreland. Additional conservation easements that will protect another three to five miles of shoreline are currently in process. In addition, the information has been utilized within the DNR to help identify priority conservation areas (e.g., aquatic management areas). Finally, a project funded by an Outdoor Heritage Fund appropriation to the Leech Lake Area Watershed Foundation, Minnesota Land Trust, and DNR will pay for acquisition-related expenses and monitoring costs of donated permanent conservation easements on sensitive shorelands in north central Minnesota.

Cass County developed and adopted sensitive lakeshore and conservation subdivision ordinances. Other local governments are considering these ordinances for their own use. Crow Wing County modified Cass County's ordinance provisions for sensitive lakeshore protection, as the county is pursuing sensitive lakeshore zoning districts to better protect areas in their jurisdiction. In addition, the DNR used Cass County's conservation subdivision ordinance within its draft state shoreland standards.

Project Details