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Wetland Symposium

Minnesota Wetland Conservation Act of 1991: Overview and No-Net-Loss Goals


Minnesota Board of Water and Soil Resources, Southbridge Office Building, 155 South Wabasha Street, Suite 104, St. Paul, MN 55107; Minnesota Department of Natural Resources-Wildlife, Box 7, 500 Lafayette Road, St. Paul, MN 55155

The Wetland Conservation Act (WCA) is a "no-net-loss" state wetland-protection program passed in June 1991. The WCA prohibits the draining and filling of wetlands unless replaced by restored or created wetlands of equal or greater public value under an approved replacement plan. This state program is administered by local government units (LGU's) and includes a comprehensive, yet simple, wetland function and value assessment to achieve wetland replacement, and a state wetland banking program.

For years, wetland scientists and regulators have developed and debated methods to quantify attributes of existing wetlands slated for destruction so that suitable replacement wetlands could be restored or created. Existing methodology, such as Habitat Evaluation Procedure or Wetland Evaluation Techniques are data intensive, often focus on a narrow range of attributes, and require a highly trained person to conduct the evaluation.

Implementation of the WCA required an evaluation system that would be rapid, user-friendly, objective, usable with minimal training, and able to preserve wetland functions and values. This "cookbook" approach was favored to provide consistency among LGU's. The methodology was based on physical characteristics of the wetland, so that requirements for replacement wetlands could be easily compared and specified.

The resultant system evaluates existing wetlands based on their type, location, inlet/outlet characteristics, and special or local factors. By using the system, an LGU can determine the amount of replacement wetland needed to mitigate adverse impacts. Implementation of the system begins in 1993 and agencies will monitor it for needed improvements (such as regionalization).

The state wetland banking program, which incorporates the same evaluation methodology, was also designed to be simple and flexible while conserving wetland functions and values. The banking program was based on federal models to assure as much consistency with the mitigation requirements of Section 404 as possible. Projects will be approved, managed, and monitored by LGU's, and landowners with the Minnesota Board of Water and Soil Resources providing oversight and central record keeping.

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