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Shoreland trees are important for a healthy lake

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Trees not only provide beauty and shade for relief on hot summer days; they are also very beneficial along lakeshore. They are important for maintaining water quality and healthy habitat in our lakes.

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Before humans settled northern Minnesota, many of the lakes had trees along the shoreline. When we started building cabins and houses, we removed many of the trees and replaced the area with manicured lawns. Many of the new seedlings under existing trees get mowed over now, and many of our mature trees are dying due to age or disease.

Trees are important for many reasons. First, they are an excellent inexpensive and attractive way to control runoff and erosion. Roots hold soil and help stabilize slopes. Rain and high water can cause runoff and erosion into the lake that carries with it nutrients and pollutants. The nutrients (phosphorus and nitrogen) feed algae and pollutants can affect water quality and habitat quality. When a lake lot has a lot of paved area (impervious surface) and groomed lawn, the rain runs right into the lake instead of absorbing into the ground. A natural buffer of native plants, shrubs and trees can filter and absorb this runoff so that it doesn't impact the lake.

Research on agricultural land adjacent to water bodies has indicated that all nitrate was removed from ground water flowing under 90 feet of woods, and 80 percent of phosphorus and nitrate was removed from surface runoff. Therefore, buffer strips of trees, shrubs and other native vegetation are a wise investment to protect your lake or stream.

Trees are also important to maintain a healthy habitat for fish, birds, insects and other animals that live in and around the lake. Trees that hang over the water provide shade for fish and other aquatic animals and protection for animals living along the shoreline. Having trees in your yard will also attract songbirds. A natural shoreline can increase privacy, increase property value, enhance aesthetics, and deter nuisance geese. Geese love a freshly mowed lawn.

If you are building a new cabin or home, planning your property development in advance to save existing vegetation is very important. If native trees and shrubs were removed in the past, planting and nurturing replacements will help increase your property value and enjoyment while helping to protect water quality.

Before removing shoreland trees, check with your local watershed district or county to make sure you don't need a permit. The Cormorant Lakes Watershed District requires a permit for tree removal in the shoreline zone. Remember, you also may need to apply for a permit from the DNR to make certain changes to your shoreline.

For more information on shorelines and when a permit is required, visit the DNR: http://www.dnr.state.mn.us. For more information on trees in shoreland areas visit: http://www.extension.umn.edu/distribution/naturalresources/components/DD...

Until next week, enjoy the lakes!

(Moriya Rufer is the Lakes Monitoring Program Coordinator for RMB Environmental Laboratories in Detroit Lakes, 218-846-1465, lakes.rmbel@eot.com.)

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