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Completed plans
establishing goals and objectives for DNR properties.
Plan reports
monitoring goals and objectives.
Feasibility studies
studying new properties.
Public lands
parks, forests, wildlife, fisheries, natural areas, trails, wild rivers and flowages.
Contact information
For information on the Northern Lake Michigan Coastal Regional Plan master planning process, contact:
Ann Freiwald
Planner
Wisconsin Department of Natural Resources
101 S Webster St.
Madison WI 53707
608-266-2130

Regional Plan for the Northern Lake Michigan Coastal Ecological Landscape

This planning effort will cover the Northern Lake Michigan Coastal Ecological Landscape and will include wildlife areas, state parks, natural areas, state forests and fishery areas within four counties: Door, Oconto, Marinette and Shawano. These lands contain a wide-variety of habitat, including the Niagara escarpment, wetlands, bogs, forests and sand dunes, while providing for year-round recreation opportunities.

Rock Island State Park’s rocky shore line with Rock Island boat house in the distance.

Rock Island State Park’s rocky shore line with Rock Island boat house in the distance.

Planning update

Two public meetings will be held in November. One on Tuesday, November 14, 2017 from 5 p.m. to 7:00 p.m. at the Stone Harbor Resort and Conference Center, 107 North First Avenue, Sturgeon Bay and the second one on November 15, 2017 from 5 p.m. to 7:00 p.m. at the Community Center, 901 Henriette Avenue, Crivitz. The public comment period for the first phase of planning is open through November 28, 2017.

Online Public Comment Form

The department is initiating the Northern Lake Michigan Coastal (NLMC) Regional Planning process and welcomes your feedback. Comments can be submitted online through November 28, 2017 through the online public comment form.


About the Region

Regional overview

This ecological landscape encompasses 2,004 square miles (1,282,877 acres), representing 3.6% of the area of the state of Wisconsin.

Only about 3.5% of the Northern Lake Michigan Coastal Ecological Landscape is public land. State ownership includes five state parks—four on the Door Peninsula and one in the Grand Traverse Islands—as well as lands administered and/or managed by the Wisconsin DNR’s Wildlife Management, Fisheries and State Natural Areas programs.

Considerations for planning and management

The ecosystems of Lake Michigan, Green Bay and the Green Bay west shore wetlands have changed dramatically in a short period of just a few years in recent decades.

Conservation plans must be highly adaptive, coordinated and integrated. Increasing development, skyrocketing land prices and increasing recreational pressure on a limited land base are placing serious constraints on conservation efforts on the Door Peninsula. Pollutants in Green Bay have created serious management problems, especially for fish and fish-eating birds and by extension, potentially for humans. The shallow soils and fractured bedrock of the Door Peninsula and Grand Traverse Islands makes sustainable development and water management challenging and expensive. The rapid spread of invasive species over the past several decades is overwhelming managers and agency budgets and is exacerbated by the large number and high mobility of visitors (including tourists and commercial ships from other parts of the world), especially to the Door Peninsula, Grand Traverse Islands and Green Bay west shore. Browse pressure from high populations of white-tailed deer is having negative impacts on many of the native ecosystems and plant communities in this ecological landscape, especially on the biologically diverse Door Peninsula.

Learn more about the Northern Lake Michigan Ecological Landscape

Significant natural resources

Two prominent features: The Lake Michigan shoreline (Door County peninsula and west shore of Green Bay) and the Niagara Escarpment hold great importance to both Wisconsin and to the United States. These distinctive landscape features play a critical role in maintaining Wisconsin’s unique biological diversity. Soils range from excessively-drained sandy and stony; to well-drained, fertile loam; to poorly-drained clay. Vegetation is equally varied. Forests include maple, basswood and beech throughout the landscape. Beech trees have significance because they generally are limited to this region of the state.

Habitats associated with the Lake Michigan shore: alkaline rock shores, coastal estuaries, ridge and swale complexes, beaches and dunes—support many species endemic to the Great Lakes, such as dwarf lake iris, Lake Huron locust, dune thistle and Hine’s emerald dragonfly. These habitats also provide critical nesting, feeding and resting habitat for a wide variety of migratory songbirds and shorebirds. Small islands along the Door Peninsula and in Green Bay host enormous rookeries of terns, herons and gulls.

Green Bay supports an impressive and storied warm water fishery. Wetlands along the west side of the bay and the wetlands lining the many streams and rivers that flow into the bay from the west, provide the majority of fish spawning habitat. Protecting these spawning locations and the water quality is critical to maintaining the perch, walleye and pike populations of Green Bay. Large Rivers that flow through this landscape are the Oconto, Peshtigo and Menominee rivers.

The Niagara Escarpment is a long, linear outcropping of dolomite (hard limestone) formed through sediment deposition in inland seas over 425 million years ago. This ridge of bedrock is commonly known as “The Ledge”. It is a sickle-shaped ridge with a steep face on one side (an escarpment) and a gentle slope on the other. It begins in south-central Wisconsin, forms the Door Peninsula, arches through the Garden Peninsula (Upper Michigan), the Bruce Peninsula (Canada) and eventually reaches Niagara Falls (New York/Canada). Bluffs and rocky slopes of the escarpment harbor ancient cedar trees, cool springs and microhabitats that support many rare species. A northern white cedar tree was aged in Peninsula State Park to be 5-7 years old (Kelly and Larson 1997).

Historic vegetation of extensive northern hardwood forests included American beech and hemlock as primary components. Lowland forests included conifer swamps with spruce, tamarack and northern white-cedar, some of which resembled boreal forests in the cool, moist climatic zones close to lake Michigan and a few floodplain forests, especially along the west shoreline of Green Bay. The catastrophic Peshtigo Fire of 1871, followed extensive logging, land-clearing and drought and severely burned over 1.2 million acres.

Current vegetation lacks the significance of previous forests, with more than 60% non-forested land, mostly agricultural crops, but also urban-industrial areas. Remaining forested lands are dominated by maple-basswood, with small amounts of lowland hardwoods, aspen-birch and lowland conifers. The interior of the Door Peninsula is now mostly agricultural or residential in nature. A coastal strip on the east side of the Door Peninsula remains heavily forested, though rapidly becoming fragmented due to residential developments. The largest forest remnants in the Door Peninsula are mostly wet, conifer or hardwood swamps.

Specialty crops such as cherries and apples are commonly grown now in Door peninsula orchards. The west shore of Green Bay still supports extensive areas of second-growth lowland forest, now dominated by hardwoods rather than the historical conifers. Dry forest remnants are locally common in Oconto and Marinette counties.

Conservation groups are active in protecting these fragile environments, notably The Nature Conservancy, the Door County Land Trust, the Ridges Sanctuary and the Northeastern Wisconsin Land Trust. Building from past accomplishments to expand and link protected areas will be critical to providing adequate amounts of habitat for many species.

Significant management opportunities for the Northern Lake Michigan Coastal Ecological Landscape Include:

  • Lake Michigan, Great Lakes shoreline features and the Grand Traverse Islands
  • Green Bay’s west shore
  • Niagara Escarpment
  • Lower Wolf River Corridor
  • Extensive wetlands north and east of Lake Noquebay
  • Warmwater streams entering Green Bay

State Natural Areas; State Natural Areas (SNAs) protect outstanding examples of Wisconsin's diverse, native landscape of natural communities, significant geological formations and archeological sites. There are 38 SNAs in the Northern Lake Michigan Coastal (NLMC) ecological landscape; approximately half occur on department-managed lands. SNAs may be either stand-alone properties or embedded within another property type, such as a State Park or Wildlife Area.

Improved monitoring and control of invasive species is a critical management activity. Control is a difficult task due to the tenacity of invasive species, the presence of multiple species on properties and the limited resources available to address this challenge.

Significant recreational resources

The Northern Lake Michigan Coastal ecological landscape properties feature resources that attract visitors from Wisconsin and Illinois, especially from the Milwaukee/Chicago metropolitan areas. Door County is a major vacation destination for people throughout the Midwest and is nationally recognized as a premier vacation destination. An encyclopedic reference book of opportunities, detailed maps and interactive mapping is available online at DoorCounty.com [exit DNR], published by the Door County Visitors Bureau. While the region’s population density is slightly less than half that of the state average (USCB 2012), its recreational resources receive heavy use due to its proximity to the Milwaukee/Chicago metropolitan areas.

Demand for the unique recreation opportunities in this landscape exceeds the capacity of existing department lands. Although the region contains diverse outdoor recreation opportunities provided by state, federal and county lands, only about 3.5% of the ecological landscape is public land (70,000 ac). This is significantly less than the statewide average of 19% and ranks this ecological landscape 12th out of 16 ecological landscapes in the percentage of public ownership of land. Even so, Door County has an above average number of state parks and recreation areas. It has the second highest percentage of people over 65 years of age and the third highest median age.

Lake Michigan and its shoreline are the foundation of much of the recreation in this part of the state. Boating, fishing and sailing are popular summertime pursuits, while snowmobiling, cross-country skiing and ice fishing draw visitors in the winter. The Niagara Escarpment offers tremendous views of Green Bay and Lake Michigan throughout the year. Although development pressure is exceedingly high in Door County, there are opportunities to connect several protected properties with a variety of different types of trails. Although there are five state parks and several local and private campgrounds, demand for camping far exceeds current supply.

In the western section of this ecological landscape, little public recreation land exists. State-owned lands are concentrated along the west shore of Green Bay and, although they provide popular hunting opportunities, their significant amounts of wetlands limit the variety of recreation activities that can be accommodated.

Regional recreation opportunity analysis

On October 6, 2017 the department released a draft version of the initial chapter for the Recreation Opportunities Analysis - the Upper Lake Michigan Coastal chapter:
Upper Lake Michigan Coastal Region Draft [PDF]

Preliminary vision and goals

Vision statement

The NLMC Ecological Landscape properties are a vital contributor to the preservation of the Niagara Escarpment and the Lake Michigan shoreline (Door County peninsula and west shore of Green Bay). This landscape also plays a major ecological role in protecting water resources along the Peshtigo, Wolf, Oconto and Menominee rivers. The properties provide abundant recreational uses on both land and water that include unique Lake Michigan coastal recreational pursuits, abundant watercraft opportunities, camping, multiple trail uses, hunting, fishing, trapping, gathering, wildlife watching and educational opportunities. The abundance and diversity of wildlife, including rare bird species and migration events that occur on this landscape attracts visitors who appreciate not only the wildlife, but also the grand scale of Lake Michigan coastal natural communities. The variety of nature-based uses and education, supported in part by the properties’ Friends groups and regional interest groups, enhance public appreciation and support for these properties, their wildlife and for sustainable habitat management for current and future generations.

Goals

  • Provide recreational opportunities for hunting, trapping, fishing, gathering, wildlife viewing, scenic enjoyment and other nature-based uses that are compatible with the properties capabilities, habitat management goals and developed land regional recreation goals.
  • Restore, manage and perpetuate the major natural community habitats that support an intact Northern Lake Michigan Coastal Ecological Landscape. Protect and ensure natural function and integrity of the water resources.
  • Maintain and enhance ecological connectivity between native habitat communities and on a landscape scale, promote their sustainability in association with other nearby town, county, state, federal and tribal lands.
  • Maintain and enhance ecological connectivity between native habitat communities and on a landscape scale, promote their sustainability in association with other nearby town, county, state, federal and tribal lands.
  • Provide habitat for the unusual number of migratory birds that are dependent on Lake Michigan’s coastal communities and for wildlife associated with the wetlands and rivers.
  • Manage the properties using principles of ecosystem management and sustainable forestry.
  • Contribute to the local and regional economies through management of nature-based and developed recreational opportunities.
  • Collaborate with partners to provide a wildlife conservation education program that generates a land and wildlife ethic into perpetuity.
  • Protect the Niagara Escarpment through sound property and watershed management practices. Work with partners and the public to promote sustainable use and “leave no trace” recreation.
Planning Process

Public comment period and meeting

Two public meetings will be held in November. One on Tuesday, November 14, 2017 from 5 p.m. to 7:00 p.m. at the Stone Harbor Resort and Conference Center 107 North First Avenue, Sturgeon Bay. And the second one on November15, 2017 from 5 p.m. to 7:00 p.m. at the Community Center, 901 Henriette Avenue, Crivitz. The public comment period for the first phase of planning is open from November 1, 2017 through November 28, 2017.

Public Participation Plan [PDF]

Where are we in the planning process?

These are the steps that the DNR follows when master planning; the step that NLMC regional plan has reached is highlighted:

  1. Preplanning: Plan the Plan
  2. Initiate Public Involvement and Scoping
  3. Review Vision Statement and Goals and Determine Significant Issues
  4. Develop and Analyze Alternatives, Including the Proposed Action
  5. Prepare a Draft Regional Plan Document
  6. Prepare and Adopt Final Regional Plan
  7. Implement Plan, Monitor and Evaluate
  8. Review and Revise the Plan

Contacts

Your comments are important so please consider coming to meetings, mailing in comments or calling us. We welcome your feedback on the property management goals and master planning issues throughout the process.

For questions or to send written and email comments:

Ann Freiwald, planner
Wisconsin Department of Natural Resources
101 S Webster St.
Madison WI 53707
608-266-2130

Maps

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Last revised: Tuesday November 14 2017