50 Foot buffer progression map from January 2017 to January 2020



Buffer Program Update

September 12, 2019

Buffer Tracking Tool: BuffCAT

Several BuffCAT guidance documents are in the process of being updated to align better with how the program has processed. Some of the compliance tracking fields listed in BuffCAT are likely to change during the next round of updates. These changes should help Soil and Water Conservation Districts (SWCDs) in tracking compliance and alternative practices. For example, a new category “Monitoring Completed” will be added to help track parcels that have already been reviewed in accordance with local monitoring plans. In addition the “Needs Review” category will be removed as of January 2020.  Stay tuned for additional information on these changes.

Election of Jurisdiction

As of July 18, 2019 all counties and watershed districts that chose to elect jurisdiction under the buffer law have an approved ordinance or rule in place and been determined to be “with jurisdiction” in accordance with Minn. Stat. §103F.48 Subd. 1 (j). See link to map.

DNR Buffer Protection Maps

An updated version of the Minnesota Department of Natural Resources’ (DNR) buffer protection map will be released in September. The updated datasets will include approved changes based on requests for review made since the previous maintenance release (September 2018). DNR’s map application tool is the appropriate process for entering change requests to the buffer protection map. For more information, see the DNR’s buffer map application tool.

BWSR Academy

BWSR Academy will be held October 29-31 at Breezy Point Conference Center. Registration is now open and will close on October 8, 2019. There are a several sessions pertaining to buffers that may be of interest to local staff including Buffers 101, Buffers: Where are We and Where are We going, and Enforcement Case Management Strategies. More information on registration, training schedule, and session descriptions is available on our website at BWSR-Academy.


Public water compliance is estimated at 99% and all waters at 98% statewide. Overall, these are high compliance numbers. However, there remains thousands of parcels that are listed as not compliant and enforcement work is just beginning. Currently 16 counties are deemed fully compliant and additional 37 counties have enforcement cases in progress.  These numbers will increase as BuffCAT continues to be updated.

BWSR has received several Notifications of Noncompliance and is in the process of bringing those parcels into compliance. SWCDs should have already begun the process of verifying compliance and issuing Notifications of Noncompliance for parcels that are not compliant. All public waters should be close to being completed by now as SWCDs work towards finishing up the public drainage systems. 

Alternative practices are being used more and more to help bring about compliance thanks to SWCDs working individually with landowners. There are more than 3,000 alternative practices recorded in BuffCAT and that number continues to grow.

Looking Ahead

September and October look to be very busy months for SWCDs to finalize the process of determining compliance and issuing Notifications of Noncompliance for parcels that are not compliant.

Our Buffer Specialists will be traveling the state this fall with the intentions of meeting with SWCDs to discuss changes to BuffCAT and plans on making determinations on compliance and notifications of noncompliance. Please reach out to them and schedule your meeting today.

We continue to encourage feedback on guidance and training that may be needed to support successfully and consistently implementing this program across Minnesota’s highly diverse landscape.

As always, thank you for all your efforts.

photo of a buffer adjacent to a cornfield


Travis Germundson
Appeals and Regulatory Compliance Coordinator