Streamlined agreement is a "win-win" for agriculture and wetlands
Today, the Board of Water and Soil Resources (BWSR) and the USDA Natural Resources Conservation Service (NRCS) will sign an agreement outlining each agency's role in the operation of an agricultural wetland mitigation bank, defining the circumstances in which the bank can be used and simplifying the process for landowners using the bank.
Currently, each agency is responsible for different aspects of wetland banking. BWSR oversees implementation of wetland mitigation through the State Wetland Conservation Act, while NRCS is responsible for implementing wetland mitigation provisions within the federal farm program. Both programs allow landowners to impact wetlands under certain conditions when the drained wetland is replaced (mitigated) with a restored wetland.
Under this joint agency agreement, landowners can satisfy their mitigation and wetland replacement requirements simultaneously for both state and federal laws.
"The agricultural wetland mitigation bank brings together 'sellers' – landowners who have high quality restored wetlands with 'buyers' – landowners who are seeking "credits" to offset planned wetlands impacts with their proposed projects," Don Baloun, NRCS State Conservationist, said. "Even in the first few months of the program it has been very successful, and this agreement will only further that success."
Under the agreement, BWSR, partnering with local soil and water conservation districts, will provide assistance and oversight to landowners proposing to restore wetlands for deposit in the bank, while NRCS will oversee the majority of projects proposed by landowners who need to purchase wetland credits from the bank. Previously, many landowners were required to gain approval from both programs for the same project.
"BWSR, NRCS and local soil and water conservation districts want the agricultural wetland banking program to work well for both the buyer and seller," John Jaschke, BWSR Executive Director, said. "We believe this partnership will provide a more efficient process for landowners while benefiting Minnesota's wetland resources at the same time."
Landowners interested in establishing an agricultural wetland bank site, or landowners with expiring Conservation Reserve Program (CRP) acres who want another option to practice conservation should contact their local Soil and Water Conservation District. More information can be found on BWSR's website: http://www.bwsr.state.mn.us/wetlands/