Wetlands Conservation Act


In the 1860s 18.6 million of the 53.6 millions acres in Minnesota were wetlands. Today only half the wetlands remain due to a lack of awareness and governmental policies that encouraged draining wetlands.

In 1991 the Minnesota Legislature passed the Wetland Conservation Act, one of the most sweeping wetlands protection laws in the country.

To retain the benefits of wetlands and reach the legislation's goal of no-net-loss of wetlands, the Wetland Conservation Act requires anyone proposing to drain, fill, or excavate a wetland first to try to avoid disturbing the wetland; second, to try to minimize any impact on the wetland; and, finally, to replace any lost wetland acres, functions, and values.


The Soil and Water Conservation District is the local government unit that implements the Wetland Conservation Act in Watonwan County. The Minnesota Board of Water and Soil Resources administers the act statewide, and the Department of Natural Resources enforces it.

Benefits of Wetlands

  • Commercial benefits, including wild rice and cranberry growing areas and aquaculture areas
  • Filtration of pollutants out of surface water and groundwater
  • Fish and wildlife benefits
  • Floodwater and stormwater retention, including reducing the potential for flooding in the watershed
  • Public recreation and education, including hunting and fishing areas, wildlife viewing areas, and nature areas
  • Recharge the groundwater supplies
  • Trap sediment
  • Use nutrients that would otherwise pollute public waters