WW-06946 Reviewed 2008
Managing Your Shoreland Woodlot
Shoreland Best Management Practices
Number 10 of 18 in the Series
Best Management Practices (BMPs) are actions you can take to reduce your impact on the environment. BMPs have been described for agriculture, forest management, and construction. This fact sheet describes BMPs you can adopt on your shoreland property to help protect and preserve water quality. In many cases, the best management for shorelands may be retaining the natural characteristics of your property.
Clean water is one of Minnesota's greatest natural resources. Many of our water resources, such as lakes, rivers, and streams, originate in forested areas. Woodlands assist nature in maintaining water quality by keeping soil in place, storing nutrients, and balancing water flows. They also help moderate stream water temperatures to support healthy fish populations.
Whether your woodlot is five acres or 100 acres, managing it can require road building, timber harvesting, and mechanical site preparation. Any of these activities can adversely affect the quality of adjacent waters if not properly planned or conducted.
The biggest concern for managing woodlots adjacent to lakes, streams, or wetlands is the erosion and deposition of soil. The amount of soil erosion and sedimentation will depend on soil type, steepness of slopes, rainfall, and the amount of soil that has been disturbed or exposed by management activities.
This fact sheet is directed at the shoreland owner with five or more acres of forest land adjacent to a lake or stream. For more information refer to Protecting Water Quality and Wetlands in Forest Management--Best Management Practices in Minnesota (listed on back page). For information on caring for trees and shrubs on less than five acres, see fact sheet #11.
|The goal of these BMPs is to minimize soil disturbance.|
A filter strip is a zone of vegetation adjacent to a water body where management activities are kept to a minimum so that less than 5% soil is exposed. A filter strip should be established in the area between the shoreline (the ordinary high water level) and the area to be managed (Figure 1). Management is permitted in the filter strip if it does not result in soil disturbance. Minimizing the exposure of soil and maintaining the residual vegetation will help trap sediment and provide a zone of infiltration before runoff reaches surface water bodies.
The width of the filter strip will vary depending on steepness (percent slope), length of the slope, and soil type. Recommendations for filter strip widths for woodlot management are given in Table 1. (Percent slope is defined in Figure 2.)
In general, the steeper the slope, the wider the filter strip should be. For more erodible soil, the filter strip should be wider.
Figure 1: Areas where filter strips are needed.
Figure 2: A 10% slope is represented by leaning a board against the wall with the top at 1 foot and the base set 10 feet away from the wall.
|Slope of land |
between management activity and
water body (percent)
|Recommended width of|
filter strip (slope distance
|0 - 10||50|
|11 - 20||51 - 70|
|21 - 40||71 - 110|
|41 - 70||111 - 150|
*Distance is measured to the edge of soil disturbance, or
in the case of fills, from the bottom of the fill slope.
A landowner should develop a management plan before beginning any forest management activities. This plan should make clean water a priority while meeting the landowner's objectives. An important part of the management plan is a map of the area (Figure 3) that shows all lakes, streams (including all seasonal streams), springs, wetlands, and other sensitive areas. The map should also include existing roads and trails, forest types, soil types, and slopes. Eventually the map will be used to delineate new roads, harvest areas, filter strips, and other protected areas.
A landowner may obtain advice and assistance in preparing a management plan from the regional Department of Natural Resources (DNR) Division of Forestry, local Soil and Water Conservation Districts (SWCD), or local forest industries. Individuals can also contract with a private consulting forester. Cost-sharing programs may be available to assist woodlot owners with some management activities. Resources that are useful in preparing a management plan include soil surveys, soil maps, topographic maps, and aerial photos, as well as a thorough on-site examination of the area.
Figure 3: Map of management area showing roads, harvest areas, filter strips, landings, water bodies, and no-harvest areas.
Erosion that occurs during forest road construction has the greatest potential to degrade lakes, streams, and wetlands. An important first step is to determine how the roads will be used now and in the future. To minimize road construction, roads should be built to the maximum standards needed to meet expected uses:
Timber harvesting is an integral part of woodlot management that involves cutting trees and removing them from the site. Harvesting temporarily disturbs the environment in the immediate area and should therefore follow a plan that incorporates water quality protection in all operations:
The purpose of mechanical site preparation is to enhance conditions for the establishment, survival, and growth of desired tree species. Mechanical site preparation involves clearing the site for planting, seeding or natural regeneration, and providing partial control of other vegetation competing with crop trees. Site preparation is usually done by a contractor with specialized equipment.
Permits are required for work in protected waters and wetlands. To determine whether a permit is required for a particular water body, contact the DNR Division of Waters area office. In some instances, further review is required by the U.S. Army Corps of Engineers or local authorities. Also, the Minnesota Wetland Conservation Act of 1991 prohibits the draining and filling of certain wetlands. Contact your local SWCD office for more information on management activities allowed in wetlands.
regional offices of MN State agencies
Protecting Water Quality and Wetlands in Forest Management--Best Management Practices in Minnesota. MN Department of Natural Resources, Forestry Division and the MN Pollution Control Agency. 140 p.
Water Resources and Timber Harvesting in the Lake States. Lake States Forestry Alliance, E-1311 First National Bank Bldg., St. Paul, MN 55101.
This fact sheet is one of a series designed to assist shoreland property owners in protecting and preserving water quality. The series includes:
This series of fact sheets is a cooperative effort of the following agencies:
University of Minnesota Extension Service, University of Minnesota
College of Natural Resources, University of Minnesota
Water Plan Coordinators of the Arrowhead counties
Minnesota Board of Water and Soil Resources
Minnesota Department of Health
Minnesota Department of Natural Resources, Division of Fish and Wildlife,
Division of Waters, Division of Forestry
Minnesota Pollution Control Agency
Minnesota Sea Grant Extension Program
Mississippi Headwaters Board
St. Louis County Health Department, Environmental Services Division
Soil and Water Conservation Districts of the Arrowhead counties
Natural Resources Conservation Services
Environmental Protection Agency
Western Lake Superior Sanitary District
These publications may be photocopied for local distribution. The addition of commercial names, products, or identifiers is not permitted. please do not add or delete any text material without contacting:
You may add information about contact persons or regulations specific to your county, region, or lake association.
University of Minnesota Extension Store St Paul, MN 55108-6069 612-625-8173
Produced by the Arrowhead Water Quality Team, a cooperative effort of Carlton, Cook, Itasca, Koochiching, Lake, and St. Louis counties and state and federal agencies. All publicly funded agencies involved are committed to equal opportunity education, service, and employment.
In accordance with the Americans with Disabilities Act, this material is available in alternative formats upon request. Please contact your University of Minnesota Extension office or the Extension Store at (800) 876-8636.