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Natural Resource Management: Wetlands

When most people think of wetlands, they think of swampy, marshy areas complete with ducks and cattails. While those areas are indeed wetlands, many other wetlands look quite different and may even be completely dry for the majority of the year. Some wetlands support trees and shrubs and some may even be farmed. District staff provide technical support and act as the "clearing-house" for local governments, county departments, and citizens with wetland and water related questions.

In Dakota County, over 80 percent of our presettlement wetlands have been lost.

Historically wetlands were considered wasted space and drained and filled for development and crop production. In Minnesota, an estimated 11 million acres of wetland area have been lost over the last hundred years, leaving about 7.5 million acres. This represents a 60 percent loss. In Dakota County, over 80 percent of our presettlement wetlands have been lost. Wetlands provide many important benefits which have only become apparent as wetland numbers have dwindled. Wetland benefits include:

  • storage area for excess water during flooding
  • filtering of sediments and nutrients before they enter lakes, rivers and streams
  • fish and wildlife habitat
  • public recreation
  • commercial uses

Recognizing the important benefits of wetlands, the Minnesota Legislature in 1991 enacted the Wetland Conservation Act (WCA). The WCA gives administrative authority to local governments. The Dakota County Soil and Water Conservation District is available to assist cities, townships, and individual landowners to determine if an area is a wetland and administer the WCA.

So what should I do if I am working in or near a wetland area?

  • Contact the Soil and Water Conservation District. Our office has been designated as the "clearing-house" for wetland information. If we don't have the information you need, we will direct you to the correct office.
  • Find out if the land you want to alter is a wetland. Remember, an area can be wetland even if it doesn't hold standing water.
  • Fill out a project notification form if proposing to alter a wetland. Our office can provide you with this application form and help you determine where it should be sent.

It is important that you design your project with nature and begin your planning process early. It is not realistic to expect to start the permitting process one week and begin work on the project the next week. Start by visiting or calling our office if you are considering a project that may alter wetlands.


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