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Wetland Conservation Act

The Minnesota Wetlands Conservation Act (WCA) was passed into law in 1991 with numerous amendments with the purpose of:

  • Achieving no net loss in the quantity, quality and biological diversity of Minnesota's existing wetlands

  • Increasing the quantity, quality and biological diversity of Minnesota's wetlands by restoring or enhancing diminished or drained wetland

  • Avoiding direct or indirect impacts from activities that destroy or diminish the quantity, quality, and biological diversity of wetlands

  • Replacing wetland values where avoidance of activities is not feasible and prudent

The Wetland Conservation Act achieves the purpose by:

  • Requiring persons proposing to impact a wetland by draining, excavating, or filling to first attempt to avoid the impact; second, attempt to minimize the impact

  • Replacing any impacted area with another wetland of equal function and value


The major wetland regulatory programs of statewide importance in Minnesota are:  

  • Department of Natural Resources Public Waters Work Permit Program (state program)

  • Wetland Conservation Act (state & local program)

  • Clean Water Act Section 404 permit program (federal program)

  • Clean Water Act Section 401 water quality certification process (state & federal program) 


Two or more of these programs may cover the same wetland and in some cases, various portions of the same wetland will be regulated by different programs. However, state and federal agencies along with local units of government coordinate to help the public determine applicable regulatory program jurisdiction on a case by case basis. The regulatory process is often initiated at the local level (city, county, watershed district, watershed management organization or soil and water conservation district) where program representatives can identify which regulations apply depending on the location and nature of the proposed activity that may effect wetlands or other water resources. BWSR is the state agency responsible for administration of the Wetland Conservation Act (WCA) which regulates the vast majority of wetlands at the state/local level. 

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