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Critical Dune Permitting

Critical dune Pic 002

Michigan is home to 225,000 acres of dunes; 74,000 acres are considered critical. These unique ecosystems are home to a diverse range of plants, animals, and insects, a large portion of which are considered threatened and endangered. Environment Great Lakes and Energy (EGLE) requires permits for any construction projects planned on critical dune sites. Projects can range from maintaining walkways to commercial building all of which need a permit and possibly a vegetation assurance plan.


Critical dune pic 2 002Vegetation assurance is required when planning to remove any vegetation from a critical dune site. Assurance is provided in accordance with the Forest Management Guidelines for Michigan prepared by the Michigan Society of American Foresters. This law requires a plan for revegetating critical dunes. All vegetation removed before or during construction will need to be replaced no matter how small the project. The Mason-Lake CD staff is here to help with the permitting process and writing an assurance plan.

Permit Applications

Dune Stabilization

Lakeshore slopes and sand dunes are harsh growing environments. Vegetation is crucial in protecting these areas. Plants growing on these sites are subjected to wind erosion and sand abrasion. Without sufficient plant cover erosion can cause site and off-site damage.

A special group of plants grow in these conditions. They typically have protective surfaces on leaves to avoid abrasion and drying. Root systems are spreading and, in the case of beachgrass and other groundcovers, have rhizomes or “runners”.

Larger slopes often have several growing “zones”. These zones are identified by stratified soils, seeps, steepness or pitch, shade, or other physical features, which may impact the type of plant that could grow there.

Site preparation for planting is often not necessary, as you will be planting in areas that lack sufficient cover.  Mulching with straw and brush after planting could prove beneficial by shielding plants from erosion and drying.

The following woody plants and groundcovers are suited for Lakeshore and Dune plantings; most are available from Mason-Lake Conservation District.

Red-Osier Dogwood-A native shrub, 6-8 feet tall, deep red bark, dark green leaves with white flowers. Grows well along bottom of dune where roots can reach moisture. Common shrub along the dunes.

Sand Cherry-Low shrub (3’-6’) white flowers in spring/early summer and dark purple fruit toward fall. Great to fill in sandy, dry areas, and for erosion control along lakes.

Bearberry-Native creeping shrubby groundcover plant that grows 1 ft. high. This will grow on sandy and rocky sites. Needs full sun.

Juniper-A native low spreading evergreen shrub which is slow-growing. The dusty blue “berry” is actually a cone. Needs full sun and dry, sandy soil.

Streambank Stabilization

Streambank Stabilization on-site technical assistance in vegetating riverbanks is available. A listing of suitable shrubs which grow well on streambanks can be mailed or obtained from the Mason-Lake CD office by calling the office 231-757-3708 ext. 3.

Ninebark-A stout looking multi-stemmed woody shrub with shredding bark, grows in areas with moisture. Grows 3-9 feet tall. Like red-osier dogwood it needs moisture.

Red Elderberry-Native shrub with medium green leaves that makes a good background for a coulorful flower border.  White or yellow flowers, bright red berries in early summer, which are a favorite of birds.  Good compliment to the American Elderberry which fruits later in summer giving you a source of berries all summer into fall.  This plant is shade tolerant and likes moist soils.  All vegetative parts of the plant are poisonous!

Red-osier Dogwood-Erect vative shrub, multi-stemmed with some branches arching; 6-8 feet tall; red to purplish red branches and twigs; long silky leaves; whitish berries August to Octover, utilized by birds; tolerates wetness, does best in sun.

Silky Dogwood-Spreading native shrub; 6 to 8 feet tall; with purplish branches; long silky leaves; blue to bluish white berries August to September, utilized by birds; tolerates wetness, does best in sun.

Highbush Cranberry-Tall spreading native shrub; to 12 feet tall; gray bark; leaves 3-lobed; bright red berries that persist through winter, utilized by birds and mammals once fermented; streambanks and wet sites, moderately shade-tolerant.

Nannyberry-Native medium shrub to 15 feet tall, displays creamy-white flowers and fruit that changes from red to black as they ripen (similar to raisins).  Fruits persist into winter and are utilized by birds and mammals.  Plant for wildlife and fast-growing hedge that sprouts from suckers.  Somewhat shade tolerant, moist to wet soils.

Gray Dogwood-Native shrub with gray to red twigs and white berries in winter.  Fruit eaten by ring-necked pheasants and ruffed grouse.  Good for wildlife and streambank plantings.  Likes well-drained soil, height 8 feet.

Runoff Erosion

Runoff can wash sediment, fertilizers, and pesticides into waterways. Erosion also removes valuable topsoil. Grassed filter strips, no-till drills, and organic matter on fields can help eliminate or slow down erosion of fields. Fore more information or assistance call the office and the staff will be happy to assist you.

Wind Erosion

Shrubs, trees, grasses and other native plants play a big part in wind erosion control. Beachgrass works the best for sandy, sunny dune areas. A couple rows of conifers and/or shrubs can help reduce wind erosion, can help save you money in heating costs and provide habitat for songbirds. District staff can assist you with the placement and selection of trees and or shrubs to get the best benefit.