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Issues Of The Environment: Michigan Shoreline Stewards Program Protects Inland Lakes

Glen Lake
Wikipedia Media Commons

There are more than 11-thousand inland lakes in Michigan.  The greatest threat to the health of these water-bodies is a loss of nearshore habitat.  In this week's "Issues of the Environment," WEMU's David Fair talks to Julia Kirkwood, chair of the Michigan Natural Shoreline Partnership, about the ongoing efforts to increase protections. 


  • July is Lakes Appreciation Month for the U.S., and the Michigan Natural Shoreline Partnership is celebrating its 10 year anniversary this year.  The biggest threat to Michigan's inland lakes is the loss of nearshore habitat.  According to the National Lake Assessment results indicate that fifty percent (50%) of Michigan's inland lakes were rated as poor with another 20% rated as fair for lakeshore habitat.  (As compared to only 10% having problems with nutrients) 

  • It is clear that high impact development such as removing native plants on the land and in the water, excessive impervious surfaces (buildings, driveways etc) and seawalls are causing problems for inland lakes.  Studies have shown that when habitat is lost both on the land and in the water this harms the birds, frogs, salamanders, turtles, insects, fish, and other wildlife that depend on certain plants for their survival. 

  • Michigan Natural Shoreline Partnership runs a program called the Michigan Shoreland Stewards Program which helps lakefront homeowners understand best practices to protect their shoreland and inland lakes.  The program recognizes inland lake property owners who are using healthy property management practices to protect their inland lake and offer tips to improve the shoreline further.  Julia Kirkwood, chair of the Michigan Natural Shoreline Partnership and Senior Environmental Quality Analyst, has been at the forefront of the Shoreline Stewards Program from the beginning, and she says that of 700 participants, just 40 have been from Southeast Michigan.

The Michigan Shoreland Stewards Program

The Michigan Shoreland Stewards Program is a  program of the Michigan Natural Shoreline Partnership(MNSP).  The MNSP had a goal of creating a statewide program to recognize lake front property owners for maintaining shoreland property in a manner that reduces negative impacts on inland lakes.  The MI Shoreland Stewards Program is a result of this goal.  This recognition program is a web based questionnaire for inland lake front property owners.  It is intended to be an educational resource to encourage protection of Michigan inland lakes through best management practices and provide property owners with recognition for their efforts.

In Washtenaw County, the Portage, Base, Whitewood Owners Association, located in Dexter and Pinckney, are recognized as a lake association that is working toward using best practices recommended by the Michigan Shoreline Stewards program.  Some of these practices include planting vegetation along the shore edge that controls erosion, not installing seawalls, and limiting fertilizers on lake-adjacent property.

Lake property owners can evaluate their properties using an online survey tool that lets them know how environmentally friendly their current shoreline is, and they can work toward a more lake-friendly property using suggestions gained from the survey.

In 2007, the first ever National Lake Assessment  (NLA) was conducted by the Environmental Protection Agency in partnership with the States.  The NLA results indicate that inland lakes across the nation need better care. The biggest stressor to inland lakes was found to be poor lakeshore habitat.  This means that there the shorelines of inland lakes have lost too many trees, shrubs, and plants (on the land and in the water).  

Registration and Participation

If people register for an account and they qualify, participants can print off a personalized certificate.  It is color coded based on the level achieved, will have their name, lake name and date.  Lake groups can also register their group on the website.  

Seawalls and the Shoreline Steward Certification

A seawall installed after December 31st 2018 will negatively affect your score such that a Shoreline Steward certificate will not be generated.  The Michigan Natural Shoreline Partnership promotes alternative bio-engineered techniques for erosion control instead of seawalls.  Preventing seawalls is important; however, it is recognized that there are many current seawalls that may not be practical to be removed/replaced with better options for the lake.  If a seawall was installed prior to the above date, there are management practices that can help improve your score. 

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— David Fair is the WEMU News Director and host of Morning Edition on WEMU.  You can contact David at734.487.3363, on twitter @DavidFairWEMU, or email him at dfair@emich.edu

Contact David: dfair@emich.edu
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