BWSR Administered Natural Resource Plans
Evaluation of Natural Resource Plan Implementation
General Planning and Evaluation Roles


Natural resource management revolves around planning, implementation and evaluation. Planning involves analysis of present conditions, past and future trends, identifying and prioritizing issues, and establishing goals and actions.  Successful planning leads to implementing actions outlined in the plan, followed by an evaluation of their outcomes. 


SWCDs develop and use many types of plans, including strategic plans, operational plans, and resource plans.

  • Strategic plans outline a vision for the SWCD and how the vision will be achieved, typically ranging between three to five years in the future.
  • Operational plans include actions to be achieved, the programs to be implemented, and the budget allocated to each program within a given year.
  • Resource plans address natural resource-related concerns or issues identified by implementing specific actions within a five to ten-year timeframe. These plans can be developed at any scale, ranging from a parcel to a watershed.

The Minnesota Association of Soil and Water Conservation Districts (MASWCD) provides support for developing, implementing and evaluating strategic and operational plans. This chapter will focus on resource plans that are described in Minnesota Statutes Chapter 103B and 103C.

BWSR Administered Natural Resource Plans

SWCDs develop, implement and evaluate natural resource plans in order to manage their local natural resources within a specific area or project site. The goal of these plans is to address resource issues that are identified by implementing specific actions. There are many types of natural resource plans that SWCDs are involved in and BWSR does not administer, for example, lake management plans, farm management plans, and forest stewardship plans. The remainder of this chapter is dedicated to natural resource plans that BWSR administers, including:

  • SWCD comprehensive plans
  • Comprehensive local water management plans
  • Comprehensive watershed management plans (developed through BWSR’s One Watershed, One Plan program)

Natural resources plans have evolved over time due to an increase in knowledge, technology and data (Figure 1). With each new plan type, the planning process and plan content has become more thorough. Natural resource plans that are specific to SWCDs are discussed below in reverse chronological order.

Figure 1: History of Natural Resource Plan Types (listed by year it was created in statute)

History of Natural Resource Plan Types

Comprehensive watershed management plan

Plans created through BWSR's One Watershed, One Plan program are called comprehensive watershed management plans and are described in Minnesota Statutes Chapter 103B.801. These plans:

  • align local water planning purposes and procedures under this chapter and chapters 103C and 103D on watershed boundaries to create a systematic, watershed-wide, science-based approach to watershed management;
  • acknowledge and build off existing local government structure, water plan services, and local capacity;
  • incorporate and make use of data and information, including watershed restoration and protection strategies developed under section 114D.26;
  • solicit input and engage experts from agencies, citizens, and stakeholder groups; focus on implementation of prioritized and targeted actions capable of achieving measurable progress; and
  • serve as a substitute for a comprehensive plan, local water management plan, or watershed management plan developed or amended, approved, and adopted, according to chapter 103B, 103C or 103D. The state has a goal of completing statewide transition to comprehensive watershed management plans by 2025.

You can learn more about comprehensive watershed management plans by visiting the BWSR website at:

Comprehensive local water management plan

The Comprehensive Local Water Management Act (1985) allows counties to develop and implement comprehensive local water management plans (referred to as county water plans). Counties can delegate the plan responsibilities to a local unit of government, regional development commission, or a resource conservation and development committee by resolution. The delegated authority must pass a resolution accepting the delegation. SWCDs can serve as the delegated local water planning entity.

County water plans are required to:

  • cover the entire county area;
  • address water problems in the context of watershed units and groundwater systems;
  • be based upon principles of sound hydrologic management of water, effective environmental  protection, and efficient management; and
  • be consistent with local water management plans prepared by counties and watershed management organizations wholly or partially within a single watershed unit or groundwater system.

You can learn more about county water plans by visiting the BWSR website at:

SWCD comprehensive plan

SWCDs can develop comprehensive plans according to Minnesota Statutes Chapter 103C.331, subd. 11. The comprehensive plan includes an assessment of the condition of natural resources in the area; identification and prioritization of local resource issues, problems, and opportunities; development of a set of goals, objectives, and actions; and development of an implementation program for the period of the plan. You can learn more about SWCD comprehensive plans here.

Outside of the seven-county metro area, SWCDs can adopt the county water plan as their comprehensive plan. Within the seven-county metro area, joint powers water management organizations are responsible for developing and adopting watershed plans. Therefore, counties in the metro area do not develop county water plans, so metro SWCDs are required to develop and maintain a comprehensive plan.

Evaluation of Natural Resource Plan Implementation

BWSR’s Performance Review and Assistance Program (PRAP) evaluates the implementation of BWSR approved resource plans for the units of government that constitute Minnesota’s local delivery system for conservation of water and related land resources. The program goal is to assist these local government partners to be the best they can be in their management of Minnesota’s land and water resources.  You can learn more about BWSR’s Performance Review and Assistance Program by visiting the BWSR website at:


General Planning and Evaluation Roles

SWCD Supervisor

The primary responsibility of supervisors is to set strategic direction and policies that direct the programs of the SWCD, based on information gathered by staff and the public. In planning and evaluation, these decisions set priorities, goals, actions, and investments that the SWCD will act on in the future. These decisions must reflect sound science and community values.

SWCD Staff

SWCD staff serve as advisors in the planning and evaluation process. Staff play a valuable role in bringing their knowledge about local land and water issues/concerns, as well as, their knowledge about landowner perspectives, types of activities that are most likely to succeed, and local relationships. 


As the agency with oversight and approval authority over water plans, BWSR provides policies based on state statutes and rules, guidance, and best practices. BWSR’s board conservationists are available to provide assistance in your planning and evaluation processes (see the BWSR website for board conservationist contact information).


Partners are integral to natural resource management. Partners could include (and are not limited to): drainage authorities, federal agencies, tribal governments, lake or river associations, citizen-based environmental group(s), sporting organization(s), farm organization(s) and agricultural groups, and non-government organizations. Partners may have technical and financial resources that can be used to enhance your resources. Partners should be brought to the table early in the planning process to assist with developing objectives and strategies, as well as to assist with determining actions and implementation steps.


It is important to incorporate the public’s input into your planning process since many of your proposed activities will involve them. What do they value in their natural resources? How to they interact with their natural resources? What issues do they see in their natural resource quality, accessibility, etc., and how are they impacted? By incorporating public input into your plan, you will build support for its implementation. BWSR can assist with best approaches for gathering this input.