Many lake property owners may wonder if a permit is required to cut, clear, or eliminate the vegetation (trees and shrubs) along their lakeshore.
According to the Minnesota DNR, your property may be within a shoreland zoning district that prohibits intensive vegetation clearing in shore impact zones, bluffs impact zones, and steep slopes.
Steep slopes average 12 percent or more over a 50 foot horizontal distance. The shore impact zone is half the distance of the structure setbacks. The bluff impact zone encompasses slopes over 30 percent over a 25 foot rise, and includes all applicable setbacks.
Intensive clearing is allowed outside of these areas for residential lots. The DNR recommends to preserve and enhance vegetation near the shore to the greatest extent possible to reduce soil erosion and the movement of sediment into the water.
Limited clearing and trimming of trees and shrubs in the shore impact zones, bluff impact zones, and steep slopes is allowed to provide a view to the water from the principal dwelling and to accommodate the placement of stairways, landings, lifts, picnic areas, access paths. Check with your city or county planning/zoning authority to verify the limitations on vegetation removal for your property.
From the Lake County’s “The Property Owners Resource Guide” & “Comprehensive Plan and Land Use Ordinance #12, effective June 23, 2017”;
Alteration of vegetation is regulated.
Selective removal is allowed to provide a view corridor to the water and also to accommodate placement of stairways, picnic areas, access paths, watercraft access, etc. However, that removal must leave sufficient cover to screen cars, dwellings, and other structures from view from the water.
Sec. 7.08 Shoreland Alterations: Alterations of vegetation and topography shall be regulated to prevent erosion into public waters, fix nutrients, preserve shoreland aesthetics, preserve historic values, prevent bank slumping and protect fish and wildlife habitat.
Removal of Natural Vegetation:
From St. Louis County’s “Shoreline Vegetation Alterations Administrative Standards”;
Minimum Standards for Vegetation Alteration: The removal of natural vegetation within the shore impact zone is subject to the following standards:
For assistance in permit requirements in St. Louis County;
For assistance in permit requirements in Lake County (Two Harbors);
Questions can also be sent to;
Important: This article is not intended to be a definitive guide on permit requirements. Rather it is intended to offer some basic insight into permits and to demonstrate that permits are required for some basic shoreline alteration. Permits are designed to protect our lakes and the lifestyle they provide. Permits are “tools” to sustain and enhance our lakes and shorelines so that residents and visitors can enjoy. Permits and Approvals may be required from federal, state, and local units of government, including the U.S. Army Corps of Engineers, watershed districts, water management organizations, counties, townships, and cities.
PO Box 493
Ely, MN 55731
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