Wetlands Conservation Act (WCA)

Available Documents


The Minnesota Wetlands Conservation Act (WCA) was passed into law in 1991 with numerous amendments (current 2009 with numerous changes), with the purpose of:

  • Achieving no net loss in the quantity, quality and biological diversity of Minnesota's existing wetlands
  • Increasing the quantity, quality and biological diversity of Minnesota's wetlands by restoring or enhancing diminished or drained wetland
  • Avoiding direct or indirect impacts from activities that destroy or diminish the quantity, quality, and biological diversity of wetlands
  • Replacing wetland values where avoidance of activities is not feasible and prudent

The Wetland Conservation Act achieves the purpose by:

  • Requiring persons proposing to impact a wetland by draining, excavating, or filling to first attempt to avoid the impact; second, attempt to minimize the impact
  • Replacing any impacted area with another wetland of equal function and value

This sequence of events is summarized as avoid, minimize, or replace.


Local government units administer WCA with oversight provided by the Board of Soil and Water Resources (BWSR).

Effective January 1, 2011, the Soil and Water Conservation District (SWCD) has implemented a WCA Fee Schedule. Contact the SWCD for the current rates.


Department of Natural Resources Conservation Officers and other peace officers provide enforcement of the act.

Wetland Functions - What Wetlands Do

Functions of wetlands include:

  • Water quality - filtering of pollutants to surface and groundwater, utilization of nutrients that would otherwise pollute public waters, trapping of sediments, shoreline protection, and utilization of the wetland as a recharge area for groundwater
  • Flood and storm water retention
  • Public recreation and education - hunting, fishing, wildlife viewing, and natural areas
  • Commercial uses - wild rice and cranberry growing and harvesting, aquaculture
  • Fish, wildlife, and native plant habitat
  • Low flow augmentation
  • Other public uses

For additional information see the BWSR website.