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DNR expands Score the Shore lake habitat evaluation

For several years, the Department of Natural Resources has provided owners of developed lake lots a systematic, objective  means to “Score Your Shore” as a method to assess the type, quantity and quality of existing shoreland habitat.  This summer, that project was expanded with DNR personnel heading out to evaluate habitat on the entire lakes via Score the Shore.  The findings from Score Your Shore were scattered and for personal use, Doug Kingsley of DNR Fisheries explained.  Score the Shore evaluates habitat on entire lakes using pre-determined, but random sites to create baselines. The number of sample sites is based on the size of the lake.  

Birds, reptiles, amphibians and mammals, as well as fish in relation to water quality, were considered.  Calub Shavlik and intern Kayla Hansch were at the helm, heading out on approximately 10 area lakes, Kingsley explained. Surveys were conducted from the water, a GPS used to locate sample sites.  Big Mantrap, Deer, Nagel, Dinner in Becker County, Lake 21 in the Paul Bunyan Forest and Straight are among the lakes in the study.  Score the Shore uses criteria similar to its predecessor, Score Your Shore.  

Step one is identifying the three habitat zones of the site. The upland zone is house to bank top, about two-thirds of the lot. The shoreland zone is bank top to water’s edge, about a third of the lot. The aquatic zone is water’s edge to the deep end of the weed bed.  Charts - available at http://www.dnr.state.mn.us/scoreyourshore/index.html ­- explain how to score the upland zone, including its tree, shrub and ground cover.  The survey helps landowners recognize functioning shoreline buffers.  For example, if 75 to 100 percent of the lot has trees along at least three-fourths of the lot front, the owner earns top score of 25.  A shrub and ground cover of similar lot percentages earns the maximum, 20 points each.  The shoreline zone scoring is similar.

The aquatic zone scoring process takes into account emergent and floating-leaf plants as well as submerged plants. Undisturbed aquatic beds earn additional points.  Overhead woody habitat - trees and shrubs hanging over the water - and downed tree limbs can claim 10 points each.  Docks, rafts and lifts are taken into consideration.  From the scores determined from the Score the Shore study, the DNR will look for trends, Kingsley said, as well as making comparisons made from lake to lake.

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