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What is Lake Wise?

Lake Wise LogoWhat Is Lake Wise?

A family in front of their house, where the property design earned them the Lake Wise AwardThe Lake Wise Program is an Agency of Natural Resources initiative that awards lake-friendly shoreland property, including state parks, town beaches, private homes and businesses.

Program Goal

The goal of Lake Wise is to establish a new culture of lakeshore landscaping that is proven to protect the lake. A property that earns the Lake Wise Award will represent a "model" shoreland property. The Lake Wise Award certifies a property is well managed, using shoreland Best Management Practices, and is maintained to care for the lake.

Why Lake Wise?

Recent Vermont lake science from the National Lake Assessment study shows that Vermont ranked lowest in the north east ecoregion and in the nation for degraded shoreland disturbance. Shoreland disturbance can be directly related to degraded water quality and aquatic habitat. The Lake Wise Program aims to inform, teach, and change the current lakeshore development practices from clearing shores and building sea walls to practices that are more lake friendly and known to effectively protect the lake. Through Lake Wise, participants receive technical assistance for mitigating erosion and runoff problems, and increasing shoreland vegetation which will protect lake quality and wildlife habitat.

before and after appropriately designed foot path constructionLake Wise is based on social science research that shows people are most influenced by their neighbors - monkey see, monkey do. So by using the beautiful Lake Wise Award sign to showcase lake friendly properties, others along the shore will be inspired to make improvements and changes so they too can earn the Award and help protect their lake. Lake Wise is modeled after Maine's successful social marketing program called Lake Smart, which has inspired many lakeshore owners in the Belgrade and Rangely Lake Districts as well as throughout the state (Maine has over 6000 lakes) to use lakeshore best management practices for shoreland development. Similar to the results of Maine's Lake Smart Program, Vermont lakeshore owners earning the Lake Wise Award will help create a movement towards more lake friendly living around Vermont lakes, thereby greatly improving protection for wildlife habitat and lake water quality.

Technical Assistance

The Lake Wise Program offers technical assistance to shoreland property owners who want to learn more about making their property as lake friendly as possible. Take advantage of free technical assistance through the Lake Wise Program and have your shoreland property assessed for controlling runoff and preventing erosion. The Lake Wise Program offers solutions - Best Management Practices - for managing shoreland property and making it lake-friendly for all.


If you are a lakeshore owner and think you are or would like to become Lake Wise eligible, then just contact the Lake Wise Program. Or, if you have a question about how to encourage others around your lake or members of your lake association to participate in the Lake Wise Program, then contact us so we can help support you. Any lakeshore owner can participate in the Lake Wise Program, including state parks, town beaches, private homes and businesses.

Shoreline edge of property with house in backgroundTo Earn the Lake Wise Award a property is evaluated in four categories: shoreland, recreation Area, driveway and structure and septic. Passing two of the four categories earns a Lake Wise certificate. Passing in all four catagories earns the property a Lake Wise award sign, indicating the property is a model for lake friendly living. 

Lake Wise Leaders

Lake Wise participants and signLake Wise Leaders serve as the local, volunteer Lake Wise contact. The Leader's job is to encourage shoreland owners to follow the Lake Wise BMPs and ultimately earn the Lake Wise Award. Contact us if you would like to serve as the Lake Wise Leader for your lake.

Lake Wise Assessors

  • Lake Wise Assessors have a background in natural resources management, including managing stormwater runoff and protecting wildlife habitat.
  • All Evaluators are trained to perform Lake Wise Assessments by DEC staff and use the same methods and impartiality for each assessment.
  • Evaluators spend up to one and half hours assessing and providing technical advice on each property. Properties are evaluated according to the Lake Wise criteria for shore; recreation area; driveway; and structure and septic. If all the appropriate shoreland Best Management Practices are in place, then the property earns the Lake Wise Award, otherwise, the Evaluator gives the landowner a copy of recommendations for how to become Lake Wise certified in the future. Landowners have up to three years to make the improvements and to be assessed a second time for earning the Lake Wise Award, after which time, a whole new evaluation would need to be done.

Lake Wise Award Sign

Lake Wise participants managing their shores using best management practices in the four categories of driveway, structures and septic, recreation areas, and shorefront will receive the Lake Wise Award. This sign can be proudly displayed on model lake friendly properties.

Woman holding a Lake Wise Award sign   Lake Wise Award sign with Lake wise logo and "Lake Friendly Living" slogan   Man holding Lake Wise Award   
Lake Wise Logo Design by Ann Linde, Shooting Star Designs

Lake Wise Award Informational Sign

Informational Lake Wise signs get posted at public areas around the lake to alert others on what the Award sign represents and to look for them on lakeshore properties. If your lake association would like an informational sign at your public lake access please contact the Lake Wise Program by emailing

Sign for the good of the lake, informing people about Lake Wise   Bulletin Board holding numerous lake information postings

The Gold Lake Wise Award

Lake Associations are awarded the "Gold Lake Wise Award," when 15% or more of all the properties on the lake have earned the Lake Wise award. Lake Associations must contact the Lake Wise program if they believe their lake qualifies for the Gold Lake Wise Award.

Marketing research shows that once 15 percent of a set population partakes in a similar action, a trend is set, and others will be attracted to follow the same actions. The Gold Lake Wise Award is an impressive accomplishment for a lake community, and lake residents living on such a lake should take tremendous pride in their actions to keep their lake clean and healthy now and forever.

As of January 2023, three lakes in Vermont have achieved the Gold Lake Wise Award, Echo Lake in Charleston, Lake Seymour in Morgen, and Lake Iroquois in Hinesburg/Williston.