Riparian Buffer Requirements

Gov. Dayton’s proposal to require a buffer of least 50 feet of vegetation around the state’s waterways was approved by the Environment and Energy Committee last week. For decades, water management experts and advocates have advocated buffer strips as a way to protect the state’s water resources from erosion and runoff pollution. Vegetation in the area between a river and the land filters out nitrates and pollutants naturally, cleaning Minnesota’s rivers without need for constant chemical or mechanical maintenance. Advocates hope passing the bill will show states downriver from Minnesota that the state is serious about water quality issues. Under the bill, a 50-foot buffer of perennial vegetation must be maintained, though landowners retain use of the buffer in whatever way they wish, as long as they comply with that restriction. Exceptions exist for areas covered by a road, building or other structure, or certain recreational or federally-compliant municipal land, but not for farmland. Almost all environmental and outdoor or conservation groups have pledged support for the bill, while farm organizations have expressed some concerns about how the proposal would work.  The bill was referred next to the Jobs, Agriculture, and Rural Development Committee, where it awaits a hearing. (S.F. 1537)

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