Lake Michigan Shoreline

Lake Michigan Shoreline

Photos of the towering dunes on Lake Michigan’s eastern shoreline elicit expressions of disbelief from those who have never before witnessed their grandeur: “That’s in Michigan?!”  

Yes, and this globally rare ecosystem is home to plants and wildlife that are just as special as its impressive views. 

From shoreline to backdune forest, this unique succession of habitats hosts a biodiverse cast of characters. Piping plover, an endangered shorebird, nests on Lake Michigan’s shores. Rare plants like the federally threatened Pitcher’s thistle thrive on just the right amount of disturbance provided by the dunes’ shifting sands. Migratory birds and butterflies who coast on the winds over Lake Michigan depend on the calm resting places they find in the region’s interdunal wetlands and backdune forests. 

Piping plover by Jill Henemyer

The scenic beauty of this region is an asset that also puts it at risk. Invasive species carried by vacationers, animals and lake currents crowd out native ones and alter the landscape. Rows of waterfront cottages stabilize the dunes and snuff out plants that depend on their movement. And the high demand for shoreline land means that much of it has already been developed, leaving the little that’s left to protect with a very high price tag. 

Protecting the Lake Michigan Shoreline


Preserve critical migratory corridors, sustain habitat for rare species and provide unparalleled scenic and recreational opportunities in one of Michigan’s most iconic landscapes. 

  • Protect and manage the few remaining undeveloped dune landscapes to allow natural sand and shoreline movement to occur unimpeded, providing a range of microhabitats important for species adapted to these habitats.  
  • Work with local and state partners to protect remaining shoreline habitat and provide public access for nature-based recreation where appropriate.  
  • Work with landowners and other partners to improve forest health and prevent or mitigate the effects of invasive forest pests. 

Related Projects

Where We Will Focus

How did we choose our focal regions?

To identify lands in West Michigan that best support biodiversity, water quality and the long-term resilience of our native plants and wildlife, the Land Conservancy of West Michigan first needed to define what constitutes “conservation potential.” We created a story map to illustrate how we approached that.

View Story Map

Support Strategic Conservation

This plan is ambitious and will succeed only with your help. Donate now to support strategic conservation in West Michigan.


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