Minnesota’s wetlands provide critical habitat for dozens of plants, animals, and bird species including Sandhill Cranes, Mallard Ducks, and Sedge Wrens. Wetlands also provide natural flood protection, recharge groundwater, and purify surface water across our state.
To protect these natural resources and the services they provide, the Wetland Conservation Act (WCA) was enacted in 1991. WCA has received strong bipartisan support for over two decades in protecting Minnesota’s remaining wetlands, promising no net loss of remaining wetlands by requiring lost acres to be replaced.
On a local level, WCA is implemented by local government units, counties, soil and water conservation districts, watershed management organizations, and townships. The Minnesota Board of Water and Soil Resources (BWSR) serves as the state-wide administrator, with the Department of Natural Resources (DNR) as an enforcement body.
How Are Wetlands Protected?
To achieve no-net-loss and protect wetland benefits, WCA has a series of steps individuals proposing wetland disturbance should follow:
- When feasible, avoid disturbing the wetland
- Minimize impacts to the wetland
- Replace any lost wetland acres, functions, or values
The Wetland Conservation Act has been amended numerous times since its passage in 1991, aiming to accommodate the varying needs of regions throughout Minnesota. Effective July 1, 2012, WCA had several statue changes. Click here for this revision. .
In response to a Governor’s Executive Order, BWSR and the DNR jointly conducted a series of stakeholder meetings in 2012 following which, they prepared a report examining long-standing issues concerning minimal wetlands impacts, regional administration of the act, and wetland restoration and replacement regulations. Some of the key issues which are still garnering attention include regulation of mining impacts to wetlands, replacement of mining impacts, and continued agricultural drainage. Here is the full report.
Audubon stayed involved throughout this process and continues to be involved in discussions which are likely to result in legislative proposals this year. We will update this section as more information becomes available.
National Wetland & Migratory Bird Habitat Conservation
Recognizing the importance of wetland conservation at the national level, the U.S. Congress passed the North American Wetlands Conservation Act in 1989. Lawmakers value the importance of migratory birds, their habitat, fish, and wildlife. NAWCA protects these values in the following ways:
- Encourages public-private partnerships to develop and implement wetland conservation projects consistent with the North American Waterfowl Management Plan
- Created the North American Wetlands Conservation Fund to assist conservation projects through grants in Canada, the United States, and Mexico
- Provides a mechanism to support migratory bird recovery programs
Reinvest in Minnesota (RIM) Reserve
RIM Reserve, a conservation easement program, has been permanently preserving Minnesota’s wetlands for over 25 years! Click here to learn more about this vital program.
For more information on wetland conservation explore the following links:
- American White Pelican Conservation
- Bottomlands for Birds
- Chimney Swift Conservation
- Golden Eagle Conservation
- Guide to Urban Bird Conservation
- Important Bird Areas
- Mississippi River Flyway
- Policy Issues and Action
- Project BirdSafe