Is the legislation all wet?

Minnesota State Roundup

Published March 1, 2005  | March 2005 issue

Simultaneously released studies call into question the effectiveness of the state's wetlands legislation. Two reports, from the Department of Natural Resources (DNR) and the Minnesota Pollution Control Agency (MPCA), suggest that the state's wetlands are not fully protected.

The 1991 Wetland Conservation Act, implemented in 1994, requires that destroyed wetland acres in the state need to be replaced one to one, and occasionally even at a 2-to-1 ratio. The purpose of the Act, controversial since its inception, was to suffer no net loss of wetlands acreage in the state. Since 1995, according to the DNR report, more than 11,000 acres have been reported destroyed, while 6,000 wetland acres have been created. Exempted areas were cited for half the lost acreage.

The MPCA report noted that 50 percent of the wetlands basin in the western Redwood River watershed has disappeared since the early 1980s.

However, not counted are other programs that result in wetlands restoration; for example, the state Reinvest in Minnesota and the federal Conservation Reserve programs have resulted in 249,00 acres of wetlands restoration over the past several decades.

On the other hand, the Wetland Conservation Act does not require reporting of lost wetland acres that are exempt from the Act.

Kathy Cobb