Designations of Critical Habitat Areas within lakes provide a holistic approach to ecosystem assessment and the protection of those areas within a lake that are most important for preserving the very character and qualities of the lake.  These sites are those sensitive and fragile areas that support wildlife and fish, provide the mechanisms that protect the water quality in the lake, harbor quality plant communities and preserve the places of serenity and aesthetic beauty for the enjoyment of lake residents and visitors.  
Critical Habitat Areas include Sensitive Areas and Public Rights Features.  Sensitive Areas …”offer critical or unique fish and wildlife habitat, including seasonal or lifestage requirements, or offering water quality or erosion control benefits to the area” (Administrative code 107.05(3)(1)(1)).  Wisconsin Department of Natural Resources is given the authority for the identification and protection of sensitive areas of the lake in this code.  Public Rights Features are areas that fulfill the right of the public for navigation, quality and quantity of water, fishing, swimming or natural scenic beauty.  Protecting these Critical Habitat Areas requires the protection of shoreline and in-lake habitat.  
Protecting the terrestrial plant community on shore provides a buffer that absorbs nutrient runoff, prevents erosion, protects water quality, maintains water temperatures and provides important habitat (Hunt et. al. 2006, Graczyk et. al. 2003).  The habitat is important for species that require habitat on shore and in the water as well as those species that require a corridor in order to move along the shore (Figure 1).  
Protecting the littoral zone and littoral zone plant communities is critical for fish (Valley et. al. 2004), wildlife and the invertebrates that both feed upon (Engel 1990, Engel 1985) (Figure 1).

The Critical Habitat Area designation will provide a framework for management decisions that impact the ecosystem of the lake.

A Critical Habitat Area Study was conducted September 25, 2006 on Lake Wissota, Chippewa County.  The designations were based on aquatic plant data collected during July and August 2005 and previous fish surveys 

The study team included:
Joe Kurz, DNR Fish Biologist
Deborah Konkel, DNR, Aquatic Plant Specialist
Buzz Sorge, DNR Lakes Manager
John Dunn, DNR Wildlife Biologist
Amy Lesik-Marcon, DNR Water Management Specialist
Roger Kees, Lake Wissota Association President
Mary Jo Fleming, Lake Wissota Association Clean Boats Clean Water Coordinator
Lake Wissota is a 6024-acre impoundment of the Chippewa River in southern Chippewa County, Wisconsin.  Lake Wissota has a maximum depth of 64 feet and approximately 56 miles of shoreline. 
Lake Wissota has a fair diversity of aquatic plant species and an aquatic plant community of average quality compared to other lakes in the state and region.  The aquatic plant community in Lake Wissota is characterized by an above average tolerance to disturbance and is close to an undisturbed condition (Heuschele 2006). 
Elodea canadensis was the dominant aquatic plant species in Lake Wissota; Vallisneria americana was the subdominant species.  The 1.5-5-foot depth zone supported the most plant growth (Heuschele 2006).

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