Buffer Implementation

Minnesota Buffer Law

In June of 2015, Governor Dayton signed into law a new buffer initiative aimed at enhancing protection of Minnesota’s waters. The buffer initiative will help protect the state’s water resources from erosion and runoff pollution by establishing roughly 110,000 acres of buffer along waterways while providing flexibility and technical support to landowners for installation and maintenance.

For years our qualified staff and partners have worked work with a variety of Federal, State, County and local programs and fund sources to aid landowners with the implementation of Best Management Practices (BMPs) such as buffers.

What is a buffer?

A buffer, also known as a riparian filter strip, is vegetated land adjacent to a stream, river, lake or wetland. Buffers help filter out phosphorus, nitrogen, and sediment, and are an important conservation practice for helping keep water clean. Studies show that buffers are critical to protecting and restoring water quality and healthy aquatic life, natural stream functions and aquatic habitat due to their immediate proximity to the water.

Do I need a buffer?

Our technicians can review available maps and imagery or make a visit to your property to determine whether this new legislation affects you.

You can also utilize our Buffer Map Viewer to view watercourses, lakes and wetlands subject to MN’s Buffer law below.


What is required?

Under the law, buffer widths will be:

  • An average of 50 feet, minimum of 30 feet on public waters
  • A minimum of 16.5 feet on public drainage systems

How will the program work?

The Minnesota Board of Water and Soil Resources, which will oversee the new law, is responsible for program policy. The MN DNR released the Buffer Protection maps on July 12th of this year, and your local SWCD is here to provide technical assistance and answer questions about financial assistance options. Landowners also have the option of working with the SWCD to determine if other alternative practices aimed at protecting water quality can be used.