20 tips for buying a lake home in NW Wisconsin: #9 Critical Habitat Designations – How the Process Works
Bodies of water being inventoried for critical habitat areas are chosen on the basis of three factors:
- quality of the resource;
- amount of knowledge and information the Department holds regarding the water body; and
- current and future risks of the resource to riparian development and in-lake activities.
After a lake is selected, DNR field staff compile and review the most current scientific data that already exists. In the field, they make further observations and establish the boundaries of the sites containing critical habitat. They then record these boundaries using precision GPS equipment—more like the kind surveyors use, rather than the type used by hunters, boaters, and hikers.
For each site, they also record current shoreland management practices occurring along littoral, bank, riparian, and setback zones following standardized methods. Depending on the features of each area being delineated, they may also conduct standardized sampling of emergent and submergent aquatic vegetation, substrate, and woody habitat.
The resulting maps and supporting data are compiled into a draft Critical Habitat Designation report, which is posted on the Department’s website for public review. (Raw sampling data and GIS shape files are also available from your local DNR office. But the maps and data on the website are already plenty detailed.) The DNR must also give notice of the draft report to the local media, the county clerk, and legislators. If requested, or if concerns are anticipated, the DNR typically holds informational meetings to answer questions and receive comments. Once public comment is received and the report is complete, Critical Habitat Designations are posted on the DNR website at http://dnr.wi.gov/lakes/criticalhabitat/ .