Download Conservation Buffer Brochure
Learn more about Implementing Minnesota’s New Buffer Initiative–Department of Natural Resources Website
Natural Resources Conservation Service Funding Options–Natural Resources Conservation Service Program information
January 2017 Newsletter Article
By Jessica Oldakowski
As we kick off the New Year, we tend to look back on our previous year’s achievements. One of those achievements is the continued work done by the state, local agencies, counties, and landowners in regards to the 2015 Minnesota Buffer and Soil Loss Law. This past year has been filled with progress. The Department of Natural Resources released the official Buffer Map and the Board of Water and Soil Resources have been creating tools and guidance documents for local agencies such as Soil and Water Conservation Districts (SWCD) and Watershed Districts for effective and consistent implementation.
Here at our Pope SWCD office, we have completed a county wide desktop analysis. Each parcel that is requiring a buffer was reviewed in order to find initial compliance based on aerial maps. The next steps are to meet with landowners about their parcels, provide technical assistance such as field verification and staking, and compliance validation checks. I will be sending waves of letters to landowners who have parcels that need further review or assistance. Please schedule an appointment to meet with me if you receive a letter. If you do not receive a letter but would still like to check on your buffer requirements we will ask that you also schedule an appointment.
Going through the initial desktop analysis and data review, we found that, with some margin of error, Pope County is sitting quite well. Most landowners when they have come in to visit about buffers realize that they already have the majority of the required buffer width and only need to add a small acreage. Many of these sites are less than an acre that is to be added for full compliance. Overall, Pope County is 93 percent compliant. With roughly only 300 parcels to review, a possible 6 percent may be falling short of the buffer requirement. The state of Minnesota, based on initial review, is 80 percent compliant. We, as Minnesotans, have been doing great conservation work and are already good stewards of the land. There is just a little bit of last minute work to fully button up the buffer initiative for improving water quality and enhancing habitat.
Comment Period Open on Statewide Buffer Mapping Project
In the previous year, the Minnesota Department of Natural Resources has been creating a Buffer Protection Map, based on the current public waters inventory, distinguishing the public waters requiring a buffer. Buffers are defined as “an area consisting of perennial vegetation, excluding invasive plants and noxious weeds, adjacent to bodies of water within the state and that protects the water resources of the state from runoff pollution; stabilizes soils, shores and banks; and protects or provides riparian corridors”. The Minnesota DNR has produced a preliminary buffer map. This map is currently open for public viewing, review, and has an open comment period. The buffer protection map can be found online at http://arcgis.dnr.state.mn.us/gis/buffersviewer/. The comment period will be close May 31, 2016.
After the comment period is closed, the Minnesota DNR will begin finalization of the Buffer Protection Map’s public waters and ditches. Public waters will be required to have a 50 foot average with a 30 foot minimum buffer by November 1, 2017. County Ditches will be required to have a 16.5 foot buffer by November 1, 2018. Please be aware that Pope County has a shoreland ordinance. The counties shoreland ordinance requires a 50 foot, no variable width, buffer on multiple water bodies, including some county ditches. This information can be found at the Pope County Land and Resource office, Pope Soil and Water Conservation District office and online at http://gis.co.pope.mn.us/link/jsfe/index.aspx?defaultRole=Public.
Pope Soil and Water Conservation District is able to assist each landowner with identifying areas of interest, determining requirements, technical assistance, and compliance verification. We can also review the DNR buffer map with you and submit the comments directly. If you have questions or concerns about what may be required, technical assistance, or other guidance about the Buffer and Soil Loss Statute, please stop by the office or make an appointment with Jessica Oldakowski.
Conservation buffers are strips of perennial vegetation around rivers, streams, lakes, and wetlands that slow water runoff thus reduces soil erosion, sequesters excess nutrients, stabilizes riparian areas, and enhances water quality. Buffers include contour buffer strips, field borders, grassed filter strips, grassed waterways, living snow fences, riparian buffers, shelterbelts/windbreaks, and wetlands.
Benefits of conservation buffers include:
- Slow water runoff
- Remove up to 50% or more nutrients and pesticides in runoff
- Remove up to 60% or more pathogens in runoff
- Remove up to 75% or more of sediment in runoff
- Reduce noise and odor
- Serve as a source of food, nesting cover, and shelter for wildlife
- Stabilize streambanks and reduce water temperature in stream
- Reduce downstream flooding
- Reduced risk of tractor rollover due to set back of steep ditch or creek
Pope SWCD is starting to accelerate voluntary enrollment of buffers with goals of buffering at least 90% of the county’s public waters. This buffer project will include identification of inadequately buffered areas as well as promotion and enrollment into CRP and easement programs. If you are interested in buffering any waterways on your property, you can stop into our office for more information on programs and available financial assistance.