What is the guiding principle of Wisconsin Sea Grant work in coastal communities? That answer lies in a situational analysis. Coastlines are the most developed areas in the nation. Demographic information shows this narrow fringe, which makes up just 17 percent of the land area in the contiguous U.S., is home to more than 53 percent of the nation’s population. Further, coastal development and sprawl are increasing; some experts estimate development in these coastal areas has tripled in the last 50 years.
In Wisconsin, more than 37 percent of the state's more than 5.4 million residents live in the 11 counties bordering Lake Michigan and Green Bay. In fact, just four counties -- Milwaukee, Kenosha, Racine and Ozaukee -- are home to about 25 percent of the state's population. These are urbanized and industrialized places that have experienced above-average population growth in the last 20 years.
There are four Wisconsin counties that border Lake Superior and are home to less than two percent of the state's population. Population growth has been slower in those counties -- Douglas, Bayfield, Ashland and Iron -- yet there has been a steady increase in recreation and tourism businesses. These businesses are directly related to Lake Superior and include commercial fishing, marinas, sailboat and kayak rentals and instruction, charter boat fishing and tourist support services.
Coastal communities are experiencing the cumulative impacts of population and development changes. Wisconsin Sea Grant assists these communities in their efforts to protect environmental resources and services, strengthen economies and enhance quality of life.
The UW Sea Grant Program's guiding principle is to provide unbiased, science-based information to issues related to coastal hazards and to watershed planning. This technical expertise and application of geographic information systems is to best manage Wisconsin's Great Lakes shorelines.