What is a Wetland Preservation Area (WPA)?
An incentive program for protecting high-quality wetlands, a WPA is exempt from property tax in accordance with Minnesota Statutes, section 272.02, Subp. 1, paragraph (10), clause (iii). If a county chooses to accept applications and designate a wetland and surrounding upland as a WPA, the county will be reimbursed by the Minnesota Department of Revenue for the actual lost tax revenue. A standing appropriation from the general fund to the Department of Revenue is used to make payments to cover WPAs enrolled by the counties under this property tax exemption program.
County participation in the WPA program is optional. A county may accept, limit the acreage, or deny applications of parcels of land into WPAs by landowners.
Eligible areas are wetlands (except for those designated as DNR Protected Waters Wetlands) that are located in both high priority regions and high priority areas as defined in a local watershed or wetland management plan.
The area must include the entire wetland area owned and a 16 1/2 --foot upland buffer strip. The maximum amount of upland buffer eligible is four acres for each acre of wetland.
How does a WPA affect landowners' rights to develop their property?
Once a parcel of land is enrolled in a WPA, a restrictive covenant is placed on the land, which is considered permanent; however, a landowner may request termination of enrollment. If an owner decides to terminate the WPA, the expiration date must be at least eight years from the date of the notice of request for termination. A WPA may be terminated earlier than this only in the event of a public emergency upon petition from the owner or county to the Governor of Minnesota.
Land designated as a WPA also has significant protection from eminent domain actions. And WPA acres may not be assessed for public projects built in its vicinity, unless the landowner chooses to benefit from the public project.
Is land excluded if it is already enrolled in another conservation program?
No. If an area of land is in a conservation easement or other type of conservation program, it still may be eligible if the area contains a wetland and is in a high priority area and a high priority region according to a local water plan or comprehensive wetland management plan.
For more information:
Contact a local Soil and Water Conservation District (SWCD). The SWCD processes and assists with completion of applications before they are submitted to the county for approval.