water erosion at edge of farm field
Water erosion

BWSR Updates Model Soil Loss Ordinance

State statute directs BWSR to work in consultation with counties, soil and water conservation districts, and other agencies to develop a model ordinance for local governments to use to control soil loss and erosion. (Minn Stats. 103F.405-411). 

According to the statute, “At least once every five years the board shall review the rules and model ordinance in cooperation with counties, soil and water conservation districts, and appropriate agencies to ensure their continued applicability and relevance.”

This model ordinance was originally developed in 1994 and updated in 2014.  BWSR staff worked with local government advisors to update the model ordinance in 2021.  Local government partners and organizations invited to review the draft ordinance included:

  • Association of Minnesota Counties
  • Minnesota Agricultural Water Resource Center
Wind erosion in road ditch
Wind erosion
  • Minnesota Association of Planning and Zoning Administrators 
  • Minnesota Association of Soil and Water Conservation Districts (MASWCD)
  • Minnesota Association of Townships
  • Minnesota Association of Watershed Districts
  • Minnesota Coalition for Environmental Advocacy
  • Minnesota Corn Growers Association
  • Minnesota Environmental Partnership
  • Minnesota Farm Bureau
  • Minnesota Farmers Union
  • Minnesota Soybean Growers

Many comments from reviewers have been incorporated in the model.

Model Soil Loss Ordinance (docx)

Complaint Investigation Process Flowchart for Excessive Soil Loss (pdf)

How to Use the Model

This model ordinance is intended primarily for use in situations where a county or other land use authority chooses to adopt a soil loss ordinance under the statutory planning and zoning authorities granted to local governments under Minnesota Statutes, §394.25 (counties and townships) and §462.357 (cities). Both statutes refer to “agriculture” and “soil conservation” as authorized purposes for establishing zoning ordinances. Some counties regulate erosion under other authorities, such as nuisance ordinances, or pursue resolution of complaints through negotiation.

The model ordinance is offered as a guide to local government. BWSR has no authority to review or approve a local soil loss ordinance. Local governments are free to modify the model’s language and format, as long as the modifications are consistent with state statute and rule. As with any ordinance, consult your county or city attorney or other legal advisor.  BWSR staff are happy to respond to questions and comments about the model ordinance: see staff contacts below or your Board Conservationist.

Soil Loss Resources

Soil Erosion Statute:  Minn. Stats. 103F.401-455

Excessive Soil Loss Control Rule: Minn. Rules 8400.4000 – 4080

University of Minnesota Extension: Soil Management and Health

Background Paper: MN Statutes Chapter 103F Soil Erosion Law: History, Perspectives and Recommendations (pdf) (2014). This paper framed questions and comments around Minnesota’s present soil erosion law and suggested some possible approaches toward a retooled agriculture soil loss control law.


Tom Gile
Resource Conservation Section Manager