Shoreland Protection Initative

The Shoreland Protection Initiative aims to permanently conserve extensive stretches of natural shoreline on lakes, ponds, rivers, and streams to leave a lasting legacy. Our priority is to help concerned landowners conserve sizable properties, especially those on water, to collectively protect our world-class natural resources before they become degraded and polluted.


Wisconsin’s northwoods region includes one of the highest densities of inland freshwater lakes in the world. Many of these lakes have clean, clear water with attractive sandy bottoms and shorelines.  As a result, the northwoods has very high development pressure for residential waterfront and vacation home ownership.

While many private waterfront properties have been developed, there is still an opportunity to protect some of the last remaining natural shorelines so that future generations can enjoy them too. Larger waterfront properties on lakes and rivers, with surrounding forests and wetlands, safeguard our clean waters and provide important habitats for fish and wildlife.

Permanently protecting natural shoreland is one of the best ways we can protect the health and beauty of our waters. Our economy is tied to our waters, so it’s a public benefit to protect water quality through private land conservation. Protecting natural, quality water resources today, versus restoring impaired waters tomorrow, just makes economic sense.

If you are a landowner interested in conserving your shoreland, please visit our Protect Your Land page.

How it’s Done

This Initiative has historically been supported by multi-year Wisconsin Department of Natural Resources’ (WDNR) lake protection grants. 

NWLT’s current grant award for 2021-2023 is focused in Vilas County and Langlade County. Landowner outreach is taking place here now in an effort to reach landowners in these counties. (NWLT works with interested landowners across our seven-county service area no matter where our current grant is implemented.)

More recently, NWLT partners directly with lake and river associations to conduct outreach to property owners and advance mutual conserve goals. Two articles posted on the Vilas County Lakes & Rivers Association website introduces the concept of land conservation to benefit water resources and includes examples of how associations can directly participate in land conservation projects.

If you are a leader in a lake or river association and wish to include an article in your newsletter or on your website related to land conservation, please contact us.

Support our initiative

Take Action!

If you are inspired and want to see more land protected along our waters…


Become a contributing supporter, or renew your support with a donation.


Conserve your land, or purchase land for the purpose of protecting it.


Talk with your neighbors, local officials and representatives about protecting shoreline to maintain the health of our waters, before it’s too late.

Resources to learn more about the importance of protecting our waters:


Partnership departments and organizations have been instrumental in sharing information to reach waterfront landowners. In addition, our partners have a variety of programs designed to help improve and maintain shoreland areas.

Over the past 15 years the legislature has passed many reductions in the Wisconsin shoreline protection system including a reduction in local control of shoreline zoning. Formerly, many counties had very effective shoreline protection ordinances in place to address their unique local circumstances. The best features of these ordinances have largely been eliminated in favor of weak statewide regulations that allow poorly designed shoreline development. Consequently, highly effective shoreline protection measures like buffer strips (which were formerly required by counties) must now be done voluntarily by landowners planning development on their shorelines. One of the best ways to protect lakes and rivers is through voluntary conservation easements through local land trusts.


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