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Learn
about the programs that provide a healthy Wisconsin shoreland, a system of native plants and trees thriving in and around the shallow water.
Find
resources provided by local communities that offer zoning ordinances to guide development near navigable lakes and rivers.

Did You Know?
Lakes and rivers belong to the state's citizens. See: The Public Trust Doctrine.
The number of homes on lakes of all sizes increased 216 percent from the 1960s to 1995.
See: Development Trends in Northern Wisconsin.

As northern lakes are developed...
Songbirds decrease and grackles, cowbirds and other common species increase.
Green frog populations decrease.
Musky, trout and bluegill populations decrease.
See: Preserving Fish and Wildlife Habitat.

Contact information
Visit our Wisconsin Shoreland Zoning Contacts page to find out who to contact regarding your property.

Safeguarding our shorelands Creating an effective shoreland zoning ordinance

A summary of Wisconsin's shoreland zoning ordinances

Publication number WT-542-00, 2000

WT-542-00 [PDF] Entire Document
Preface [PDF] Table of Contents and Introduction
Chapter 1 [PDF] Creating an Effective Shoreland Zoning Ordinance
Chapter 2 [PDF] Shoreland Zoning Ordinance Summaries
Chapter 3 [PDF] Shoreland Lots
Chapter 4 [PDF] Shoreland Setbacks
Chapter 5 [PDF] Impervious Surface Area
Chapter 6 [PDF] Accessory Structures
Chapter 7 Boathouses
Chapter 8 [PDF] Piers and Dockominiums
Chapter 9 [PDF] Shoreland Walkways
Chapter 10 [PDF] Shoreline Vegetation Protection
Chapter 11 [PDF] Nonconforming Structures
Chapter 12 [PDF] Shoreland Mitigation
Chapter 13 [PDF] Wetland Protection
Chapter 14 [PDF] Land Disturbance
Chapter 15 [PDF] Bluffs and Unstable Soil

This document is intended to provide a summary of Wisconsin county shoreland zoning ordinances. These summaries are not to be used in lieu of any specific ordinance. For any questions relating to site specific concerns, please refer to the official shoreland zoning ordinance for the county of concern or contact the zoning department for that county.

This guide does not attempt to determine which approaches are right or wrong, but tries to address the advantages and disadvantages of the different methods. The final determination of what method is appropriate will vary with each community´s intent and goals. We encourage information sharing. If within this document, you find an innovative approach to a situation your community is facing, please contact the county involved to find out the benefits and practical limitations.

Since zoning ordinances are often amended to reflect the needs of their community, this publication will be periodically updated as well. To assist in determining the timeliness of various ordinances, each county ordinance summary has the date of the last amendment in the bottom right corner. Please keep in mind that the ordinance you are looking at may be out-of-date.

This project has been funded wholly or in part by the U.S. Environmental Protection Agency under assistance agreement CD 985477-01-1 to the Wisconsin Department of Natural Resources. The contents of this document do not necessarily reflect the views and policies of the Environmental Protection Agency, nor does mention of trade names or commercial products constitute endorsement or recommendation for use.

Disclaimer of Liability and disclaimer of warranties

Although the summaries found in this publication have been obtained from sources believed to be reliable, no warranty, expressed or implied, is made regarding the accuracy, adequacy, completeness, legality, reliability or usefulness of any information contained in this publication. To be certain of the accuracy of summaries or quotations contained in this publication, please consult the official shoreland zoning ordinances that are cited for each county.

Contact information
For more information about this page, please contact:
Shoreland policy coordinator
Bureau of Watershed Management
Last revised: Friday October 16 2015