More options made available to buffer strip state requirements

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More Buffer Law Options Available for Minnesota Landowners

Six alternative practices offer flexibility for landowners to meet water quality improvement goals

Implementation of Minnesota’s buffer law is well underway, and landowners around the state are making good progress ahead of the first compliance date set for Nov. 1.

To help landowners figure out the most effective way to comply with the buffer law, the Minnesota Board of Water and Soil Resources (BWSR) released another set of tools last week to help soil and water conservation districts (SWCDs) and landowners identify alternative options. 

The Common Alternative Practices guidance provides water quality solutions for common situations where practices other than buffers may make sense.

Under the law, landowners can use alternative practices with equivalent water quality benefits to buffers. SWCDs have the authority to validate these practices and are working to partner and support landowners to find the best solutions for their land. BWSR’s role is to provide program guidance and support and ensure local governments are consistent and working with landowners, BWSR Executive Director John Jaschke said.

“Minnesota’s buffer law is designed to be flexible while delivering improved water quality benefits for future generations,” Jaschke said. “Around the state there are already examples of landowners and SWCDs working together to achieve those results using something other than a buffer.  The law’s flexibility enables Minnesota landowners to find a solution that works for them and their land.”

Jim Gebhardt worked with the Mower County SWCD to determine whether the conservation field practices in place for the past three decades on a 150-acre parcel of the Gebhardt family’s farm operations benefit water quality more than what would be provided by a 50-foot buffer required by the new law on public waterways.  The district confirmed that the combination of practices meets – and goes beyond – the water quality benefits required to satisfy the buffer law, Jaschke said.

“We were losing tons of soil every year on that land before we put in the basins and grass waterways,” Gebhardt said. “It’s great to have those projects recognized for their water-quality benefits but alternative practices to buffers won’t work for everyone. You need to have the right slope of ground to make it work.”

BWSR staff met with more than 15 stakeholder groups around Minnesota to develop these practices, including landowners, SWCDs, environmental, and agricultural groups....


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