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Buffer Program

2016 Buffer Law Amendments

The Buffer Law that was signed into law by Governor Dayton in June 2015 was amended by the Legislature and signed into law by Governor Dayton on April 25, 2016. These amendments provide clarifications to several provisions of the law, including the buffer requirement by ensuring it only applies to public waters and public ditches and compliance and enforcement responsibilities and processes. Additional details on these changes are provided in the documents below.

Buffer and Soil Loss Program Updates

At its March 23, 2016 meeting, the BWSR Board reviewed several documents that provide a timeline and details on the Buffer and Soil Loss Programs and authorized seeking public comment on BWSR's implementation plans. At this time, BWSR is seeking public comment on the following components of Buffer and Soil Loss Program implementation:

Buffer Program Implementation:

Administrative Procedures

Excessive Soil Loss Program Implementation

Supporting Documents:

Comments will be accepted through May 4, 2016, and will be considered during program development. Comments may be submitted via email to or via U.S. mail to David Weirens, Asst. Director for Programs and Policy, BWSR, 520 Lafayette Road, St. Paul, MN 55155.

Why is this important?

A new Minnesota Pollution Control Agency study found that few southwest Minnesota waters meet swimmable, fishable standards.

The Buffer Initiative web page and the information contained here is a collaboration with the Minnesota Board of Water and Soil Resources and the Minnesota Department of Natural Resource. The state departments of Agriculture and the Pollution Control Agency were also instrumental in formulating this initiative, a process that involved consultation with stakeholder groups, counties and other local governments.


How do buffers work? »

Legislative Background

Governor Mark Dayton’s new landmark buffer initiative was recently signed into law, designating an estimated 110,000 acres of land for water quality buffer strips statewide. The law establishes new perennial vegetation buffers of up to 50 feet along rivers, streams, and ditches that will help filter out phosphorus, nitrogen, and sediment. The new law provides flexibility and financial support for landowners to install and maintain buffers, and boost compliance with buffer laws across Minnesota.

Buffer Legislation at a Glance  »

Buffer Legislative Language  »

Buffer Initiative Common Questions and Answers  »

Mixed Woods Ecoregion

Northeastern Minnesota

The best buffer conditions are in the Northern and Northeastern sections of the state. More than 90 percent of the shorelines have good, or very good buffers already in place.

Mixed Woods Plains Ecoregion

East-Central Minnesota

Almost 90 percent of the shorelines in Central and East Central Minnesota have good or very good buffers in place.

Prairies Ecoregion

South and Western Minnesota

The greatest opportunity to improve buffers is in the South and West where about half the shorelines have good or very good buffer coverage in place.

Frequently Asked Questions

Download questions and answers as a PDF

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Five key ways the new buffer initiative protects Minnesota waters

Download the five key ways as a PDF »

The new buffer Initiative enhances protection of Minnesota waters by building upon existing requirements in the following ways:

1. Expanding the Scope of Waters Covered

2. Setting Timelines for Implementation

3. Providing for Enforcement

4. Strengthening soil erosion statutes

5. Appropriating Funding

Minnesota Board of Water and Soil Resources

520 Lafayette Road North, St. Paul, MN 55155 | (651) 296-3767 | Fax (651) 297-5615 | TTY (800) 627-3529

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