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Lakeshore Buffer Basics and Resources

At the Franklin County NRCD's first Lake Carmi Watershed Workshop, we focused on lakeshore buffers and their importance for improving water quality, shoreline stability, and wildlife habitat. Here are some buffer basics and helpful resources for folks looking to protect their lakeshore.


Lakeshore Buffer Basics


Have you heard of the 2014 Vermont Shoreland Protection Act? According to the Shoreland Protection Act, the first 250 ft from a lake's mean water level is considered protect shoreland area. This limits development along lakeshores in order to maintain healthy, naturalized lakes in Vermont. Natural vegetation must be maintained within the first 100 ft of the lakeshore.


An illustration of a lakeshore that shows different requirements within different buffer widths.  Vegetation must be protected within the first 100 ft of the shoreline. <40%  of the next 150ft can be cleared and <20% of the next 150ft can be comprised of impervious surfaces.
The Vermont Shoreland Protection Act protects and limits development within the first 250 ft from the lakeshore.

Different-sized buffers have different benefits! Consider your priorities for your land to decide how wide your buffer should be. A minimum of 15 ft is needed to provide shoreland stability. As you widen your buffer, it will provide more water quality and wildlife habitat benefits. For those considering stormwater management on their lakeshore properties, a minimum 50 ft buffer is ideal.

A minimum of 15 ft is necessary for shoreland stability. A minimum of 30 feet is necessary for shoreland habitat. A minimum of 50 ft is necessary for stormwater treatment and water quality protection. A minimum of 200 ft is necessary for aquatic habitat benefits. Terrestrial wildlife habitat benefits vary based upon the type of fauna.
Different buffer widths have different environmental benefits.

Why do we always prefer native plants to introduced or exotic species in your lakeshore buffer? Native plants typically have deeper, stronger roots that help infiltrate stormwater and stabilize the soil. Turf grass in particular has very shallow roots, which means that shorelines with mown turf grass are typically less stable than those with healthy, native vegetation.

Introduced species like daylily, hosta, and turf grass have shallow, weak roots. Native plants like heather aster, switchgrass, and joe pye weed have deeper, stronger roots.
Native plants typically have deeper, stronger roots than introduced species and turf grass.

Lakeshore Buffer Resources


If you're looking to sink stormwater on your property before it reaches the lake, considering implementing a rain garden. Check out the Vermont Rain Garden Manual for more information and native plant recommendations.


Are you worried about increased vegetation on your shoreline resulting in more ticks on your property? Check out the Lake Wise Information Sheet on Ticks and Shorelands to minimize your risk for ticks and protect your shoreline.


For more information on landscaping on your lakeshore, view A Guide to Healthy Lakes Using Lakeshore Landscaping.


Illustrations in this blog post were taken from Holly Greenleaf's Watershed Workshop presentation.

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