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Completed plans
establishing goals and objectives for DNR properties.
Public lands
parks, forests, wildlife, fisheries, natural areas, trails, wild rivers and flowages.
Common Elements
Standard practices for management of DNR lands
Contact information
For information on the Northern Lake Michigan Coastal Regional Plan master planning process, contact:
Diane Brusoe
Property Planning Section Chief
Bureau of Facilities and Lands
Internal Services Division
Wisconsin Department of Natural Resources
Desk Phone: (608) 267-7469
Mobile: (608) 843-9087
Fax: (608) 267-2750

Regional Master Plan Northern Lake Michigan Coastal Ecological Landscape

This planning effort covers the Northern Lake Michigan Coastal Ecological Landscape and includes 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.

Top of Page map.

Planning update

The public review period for the Draft Northern Lake Michigan Coastal Regional Plan was May 15 - June 12, 2018. The department anticipates presenting the Regional Plan for Natural Resources Board approval at their August 8th meeting in Green Bay.

Learn more about the properties in the Northern Lake Michigan Coastal Regional Master Plan using our interactive map.

Comments or questions
For comments or questions regarding the draft plan, please contact:
Diane Brusoe
Property Planning Section Chief

About the Northern Lake Michigan Coastal Ecological Landscape

Regional overview

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 published by the Door County Visitors Bureau and is available online at [exit DNR] . 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.

DRAFT Regional Plan

Executive Summary

Public involvement

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
    1. Public Participation Plan [PDF]
  2. Initiate Public Involvement and Scoping
    1. Summary Of Public Comments [PDF]
  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. Public Review of Draft Master Plan
    1. Summary of comments received and the department's response [PDF]
  7. Prepare and Adopt Final Regional Plan
    1. NRB public participation guidelines
  8. Implement Plan, Monitor and Evaluate
  9. Review and Revise the Plan

Regional Maps

Major Property Maps

Minor Property Designation Maps

Property Planning Viewer

Last revised: Wednesday July 25 2018