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MN Buffer Law :

For the most current information please see the State Buffer Law website for information of the buffer law. This site will provide the most current information of the law.

Stearns County SWCD Buffer Contact

Ben Ruley - 320-345-6474

​Check your property online for Public Waters or Public Ditches here:

Requirements of the Buffer Law

     Public Waters

  • Require a 50-foot average width, 30-foot minimum width, continuous buffer of perennially rooted vegetation or an approved alternative practice plan with the SWCD Office. 

  • Buffers are measured from the top or crown of the bank.  Where there is no defined bank, measurement must be from the edge of the normal water level.

  • MN Buffers Law for Public Waters started on November 1, 2017

     Public Drainage Systems

  • Requires a minimum of 16.5 feet of buffer

  • Buffers are measured from the top or crown of the bank.  

  • MN Buffers Law for Public Ditches started on November 1, 2018


MN Buffer Law

Compliance Tracking Plan

Watershed District Coordination

  • The North Fork Crow River Watershed District and Sauk River Watershed District enforce the MN Buffer Law on their Public Ditches in coordination with the SWCD.

  • SRWD Buffer Law MOA

  • NFCRWD Buffer Law MOA

Other Waters



  • Requires SWCDs to make compliance determinations and track progress towards compliance

  • Requires SWCDs to notify the organization with jurisdiction over the noncompliant site when it determines a landowner is not in compliance.

  • Exempts certain land uses and areas from the buffer requirements

  • Allows landowners to meet the buffer requirements through other conservation practices that will protect water quality

  • Requires SWCDs to identify “other waters” for inclusion in local water plans

  • Requires SWCDs to assist landowners in complying with the law

  • Provides for enforcement by counties, watershed districts or the MN Board of Water and Soil Resources (BWSR)


Click here for more information on Minnesota Buffer Program Implementation.

Options for Compliance with the Buffer Law

There are numerous options for landowners to stay in compliance with the buffer law:

  • Voluntary planting of perennial vegetation for hay, pasture, wildlife habitat…

  • Conservation set aside programs like Reinvest in Minnesota (RIM) Reserve, CRP…

  • Installing “Alternative Practices” that meet the requirements

  • Meeting the requirements of and enrolling in the MN Ag Water Quality Certification Program (MAWQCP)

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