Brown County Zoning is the recognized authority by the legislature of Wisconsin to administer the Shoreland and Floodplain Management Programs (NR115 and NR116), as well as Chapters 22 and 23 of the Brown County Code, in Brown County. These programs control shorelands, wetlands, and floodplains of the navigable waters in the unincorporated areas of Brown County. The legislature of Wisconsin has also delegated responsibility to the county to further the maintenance of safe and healthful conditions; control building sites, placement of structures, and land uses; and to preserve shore cover and natural beauty along those areas within 300 feet of the ordinary high-water mark of a navigable river or stream, and/or within 1,000 feet of the ordinary high-water mark of navigable lakes, ponds, or flowages or to the landward side of the floodplain, whichever distance is greater.
Shoreland property owners play an important role in preserving the quality of our lakes, rivers, and waterways. As a shoreland property owner, your responsibilities extend beyond your individual property. How you take care of your shoreland property can impact an entire lake or waterway system. The purpose of these ordinances are to help guide shoreland property owners, contractors, and others to understand the important provisions and how you can protect our valuable delicate natural systems that include the lakes, rivers, and waterways in Brown County through good environmental practices.
It is also very important to be aware of the floodplains of Brown County. Controlled development within these areas helps reduce the risk of damage and loss of life during flooding events. Flooding is the #1 natural disaster and flood damage is not covered by most homeowners insurance. In fact, 25% of flood claims are filed by people living in moderate-to-low risk areas. The disaster assistance — if it’s available — is usually a loan you must repay with interest. This is why it is best to be proactive rather than reactive when it comes to the floodplains of Brown County.
Don’t forget the wetlands. From sedge meadows to bogs, wetlands cover a wide array of landscapes. They share in common the ability to support aquatic or "water loving" plants, and provide habitat for more species of plants and animals than any other type of landscape in Wisconsin. Habitat is not their only functional value. Wetlands can also store water to prevent flooding, purify water, protect lake and stream shores from eroding, and provide recreational opportunities for wildlife watchers, anglers, hunters, and boaters. But Wisconsin only has about half of the 10 million acres of wetlands that were present in 1848 due to farm drainage and filling for development and roads. Laws have slowed their loss, but wetlands continue to be destroyed and degraded. Invasive plants, like purple loosestrife and reed canary grass, are crowding out native plants and harming habitat. Overuse of groundwater and increasing stormwater from development starves or drowns wetlands plants.
Every one of us can help protect, preserve, and restore these wonderlands. If you're a property owner, learn whether you have a wetland on your land and familiarize yourself with laws protecting the wetland or consider restoring wetlands that may have been drained on your property.