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Who we are

The Minnesota Board of Water and Soil Resources (BWSR) consists of 20 members. Members can be citizens, state agency staff, or local government representatives that deliver BWSR programs. The board is the state's administrative agency for 90 soil and water conservation districts, 46 watershed districts, 23 metropolitan watershed management organizations, and 80 county water managers. The board sets a policy agenda designed to enhance conservation delivery through local government partners. Board members, including the board chair, are appointed by the governor to staggered four-year terms.

Because 78 percent of the state's land is held in private ownership, BWSR's focus on private lands is critical to attaining the state's goals for clean water, clean air, and abundant fish and wildlife. These working lands - Minnesota's farms, forests, and urban areas - contribute greatly to the production of environmental goods and benefits including cleaner air and water, fish and wildlife habitat, and preservation of open spaces.

Agency programs to assist landowners and local governments have resulted in less sediment and nutrients entering our lakes, rivers, and streams; enhanced habitat; and the drastic slowing of wetland losses. These outcomes have been realized in spite of intensification of agriculture, greater demands for forest products, and rapid urbanization in many parts of the state.

Mission

BWSR’s mission is to improve and protect Minnesota's water and soil resources by working in partnership with local organizations and private landowners. Core functions include implementing the state's soil and water conservation policy, comprehensive local water management, and the Wetland Conservation Act as it relates to the 41.7 million acres of private land in Minnesota.

BWSR's mission is implemented through the following core functions:

  • To function as the state soil conservation agency. (M.S. 103B.101)

  • To direct private land soil and water conservation programs through the action of SWCDs, counties, cities, townships, watershed districts, and water management organizations. (M.S. 103C, 103D, 103F)

  • To link water resource planning with comprehensive land use planning. (M.S. 103B)

  • To provide resolution of water policy conflicts and issues. (M.S. 103A.211, 103A.305, 103A.315, 103A.311)

  • To implement the comprehensive local water management acts. (M.S. 103B.201, 103B.255, 103B.301)

  • To provide the forum (through the board) for local issues, priorities, and opportunities to be incorporated into state public policy. (M.S. 103B.101)

  • To administer for the Wetland Conservation Act. (M.S. 103G)

  • To coordinate state and federal resources to realize local priorities.

Operations

Staff members are located in nine field offices throughout the state in Bemidji, Brainerd, Duluth, Detroit Lakes, Mankato, Marshall, New Ulm, Rochester, and St. Paul (central office and metro field office). Agency staff provide technical and financial assistance to local governments to plan and implement agency policy on private lands.

The local-state conservation delivery system provides an opportunity to partner state, federal, local, and private resources to private lands projects that help maintain water quality, prevent soil loss and erosion, plan for land use, and protect wetlands. These partnerships in service delivery ensure that the interest of state policy is implemented with local issues and problems in mind.

History

The Minnesota Board of Water and Soil Resources was created in 1987, when the Legislature combined the Soil and Water Conservation Board with two other organizations with local government and natural resource ties: the Water Resources Board (established in 1955) and the Southern Minnesota Rivers Basin Council (established in 1971). In October 2012, the BWSR celebrated its 25th Anniversary. This video from the anniversary celebration includes more information on BWSR's history along with historic photos.

First SWCD
A group of farmers in the Burns-Homer-Pleasant district meet in Winona on January 18, 1939. The district was the first Soil and Water Conservation District in the state of Minnesota, celebrating 80 years in 2018.