Wetlands Conservation Act (WCA)


The Minnesota Wetlands Conservation Act was passed into law in 1991 (and amended in 1993, 1994, 1996 and 2000), with the purpose of:

  1. Achieving no net loss in the quantity, quality and biological diversity of Minnesota’s existing wetlands;
  2. Increasing the quantity, quality and biological diversity of Minnesota’s wetlands by restoring or enhancing diminished or drained wetland;
  3. Avoiding direct or indirect impacts from activities that destroy or diminish the quantity, quality, and biological diversity of wetlands; and
  4. 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; and, finally, replace 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 the Wetlands Conservation Act with oversight provided by the Board of Soil & Water Resources. 


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

Wetland Functions – What do 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; and 
  • Other public uses.

For additional information see the Minnesota Board of Water and Soil Resources (BWSR) web site.