Natural resources management and planning

Hennepin County delivers a variety of conservation services to protect our land and water. The county also coordinates with conservation districts and watersheds.

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Hennepin County natural resources strategic plan

Hennepin county’s natural resources strategic plan is intended to guide the county and its partners in responding to natural resource issues and developing internal and external policies, programs and partnerships that improve, protect and preserve natural resources.

The plan was adopted by the Hennepin County Board of Commissioners on May 24, 2016. 

Natural resources strategic plan

Read the natural resources strategic plan (PDF).

Get an overview of the plan by reviewing the natural resources strategic plan summary flyer (PDF).

Hennepin County soil and water conservation services

The Minnesota Board of Water and Soil Resources (BWSR) issued an order (PDF) for the discontinuance of the Hennepin Conservation District (HCD) and the transfer of all district duties and authorities to the Hennepin County Board of Commissioners on December 18, 2013. BWSR issued the order following their review of a petition filed by Hennepin County pursuant to Minnesota Statutes 383B.761.

As of February 12, 2014, all duties and authorities of HCD were officially transferred (PDF) to Hennepin County. Therefore, pursuant to Minnesota Statutes 383B.761:

  • Hennepin County is now acting as a soil and water conservation district (SWCD) with all duties and authorities of an SWCD. The county board delegated all administrative authorities pertaining to the assumed duties to the county administrator through the adoption of County Board Action 14-0212 (PDF).
  • All contracts that HCD was a party shall remain in force, with Hennepin County being substituted as for HCD as party (MN 383B.761, subdivision 3).
  • Hennepin County is eligible for all grants that HCD was eligible for (MN 383B.761, subdivision 5).
  • Hennepin County will continue the delivery of soil and water conservation services throughout the county. Learn more about the conservation services offered by Hennepin County (PDF).

Conservation programs


Hennepin County provides the following soil and water conservation services throughout the county:

  • Enforcement of the Wetland Conservation Act (WCA). 
  • Conservation easement monitoring activities, including Reinvest in Minnesota (RIM) conservation easements and Hennepin County conservation easements.
  • Environmental education and outreach through programs including River Watch, the Children's Water Festival, Envirothon and the West Metro Water Alliance (WMWA). The county also has environmental education resources and grant funding available.
  • Volunteer opportunities through the Wetland Health Evaluation Program (WHEP), Stream Health Evaluation Program (SHEP), Master Naturalist and Master Gardener programs. 
  • Technical assistance to local governments.
  • Natural resources inventory and natural resources interactive map. Learn more.
  • Financial assistance through state cost-share, well-sealing, agricultural best management practices (BMP) loan program, natural resources grants and Green Partners grants. Learn more.

Special projects

Reports and links

Annual summaries

Natural resources management accomplishments

Aquatic invasive species program accomplishments

State performance review of Hennepin County conservation services 

Periodically, the Minnesota Board of Water and Soil Resources (BWSR) performs a detailed review and assessment of conservation district performance. BWSR completed this review for Hennepin County conservation services in July 2017. The review found that the county is meeting all basic performance standards and about half of the high performance standards. See the full Performance Review and Assessment Program report (PDF).


Budgets and financial reports

    Meeting minutes

    Partners and partnerships

    BWSR Natural Resources Block Grant reports 

    Local Water Management (LWM)

    Subsurface Sewage Treatment Systems (SSTS)

    Well sealing grants

    Wetland Conservation Act (WCA)

    SWCD program and operations grant reports

    Conservation delivery

    State cost-share

    Easement delivery

    SWCD organizational capacity grant reports

    • 2016 - not yet available

    SWCD buffer implementation grant report

    • 2016 - not yet available

    Disaster recovery assistance grant reports

    • 2016 - not yet available

    Hennepin natural resources partnership

    The Hennepin natural resources partnership provides a forum for a holistic and collaborative approach to managing and protecting our land and water. Everyone is welcome to attend, especially those from cities, watersheds, agencies and organizations involved with or interested in natural resources management and protection.

    Upcoming meetings

    All meetings are held at the Ridgedale Library from 1 to 3 p.m. Agendas will be posted here before the meeting.

    2017 meetings:

    • December 7: Minnesota Board of Water and Soil Resources audit of Hennepin County conservation services and interactive discussion on implementing recommendations

    RSVP and meeting topic ideas

    RSVPs are encouraged. RSVP and submit meeting topic and speaker ideas to Stacey Lijewski at or 612-348-9938.

    Meeting presentations

    June 2016: stormwater collection and reuse

    January 2015

    March 2015

    September 2015

    December 2015 


    Watersheds in Hennepin County

    What is a watershed?

    A watershed is an area of land that catches rain, snow, and any other form of water and drains to a lake, stream, wetland or groundwater.

    Watersheds come in all different shapes and sizes. Smaller watersheds drain into larger watersheds, much like a creek drains into a river. Some watersheds cross county, state, and even international borders.

    The rain water that falls on your house, lawn or driveway runs into a nearby lake, river or stream. This water, like all the surface water in Hennepin County, will flow into the Mississippi River and eventually into the Gulf of Mexico. Actions taken to protect or pollute water will impact the quality of lakes, rivers or wetlands downstream.

    Notice of public hearings

    The Shingle Creek Watershed Management Commission (SCWMC) and West Mississippi Watershed Management Commission (WMWMC) will hold public hearings at their regular meeting on Thursday, June 9, 2016 at 12:45 p.m. to receive comments on a minor plan amendment to their Third Generation Watershed Management Plan. The proposed minor plan amendments will add one project to the Shingle Creek Capital Improvement Plan (CIP) and adjust the cost of another. In addition, the amendment will add one project to the West Mississippi CIP. The projects will restore and protect area water resources. The hearing will be held at the Clubhouse at Edinburgh USA, 8700 Edinbrook Crossing, Brooklyn Park, Minnesota. More information related to this public hearing can be found on the SCWMC website.

    Watershed organizations

    Watersheds are managed by either a Watershed Management Organization or a Watershed District. Both are considered a separate unit of government and are governed by a Board of Commissioners. Watershed District board members are appointed by the Hennepin County Commissioners, while Watershed Management Organization board members are appointed by individual city councils.

    Watershed organizations in Hennepin County

    The major watersheds in Hennepin County are:

    West Metro Water Alliance

    The West Metro Water Alliance (WMWA) is a working group of agencies with a common interest in water quality and stormwater management. The group collaborates on various projects related to education and outreach on water quality issues, including development of an e-newsletter, printed materials, education program, workshops and campaigns.

    WMWA partners include:

    Water Links e-newsletter

    Water Links is a monthly e-newsletter that features news, events, project updates and tips related to water quality issues.

    Read the past issues or sign up.

    WMWA environmental educators

    Environmental educators from WMWA are available to implement a series of lessons on watersheds and water quality in fourth grade classrooms. The lessons have been developed to meet the Minnesota State Science Standards and will be tailored for each school.

    Schools located with the Bassett Creek, Elm Creek, Shingle Creek and West Mississippi watersheds can request environmental educators to implement any or all of the following lessons:

    • What is a Watershed and Why Do We Care? - Includes an overview of the concept of a watershed, a look at the watershed where the school is located and an exploration of the threats to a watershed
    • The Water Cycle: An Incredible Journey - Explore the movement of water, the states of water and how water is polluted and cleansed as it moves through the cycle

    WMWA educators are also available to help you implement community/service learning projects, plan a school event and develop additional water-themed lessons.

    Email for more information or to request an educator at your school.

    Water quality educational resources

    Water quality brochure

    Ten Things You Can Do to Improve Minnesota's Lakes, Rivers and Streams brochure (PDF)

    Ten steps you can take in caring for your house and lawn that will help protect water quality.

    Water quality newsletter articles

    The articles developed by WMWA are provided for use by our partners in community newsletters, newspapers and websites to promote practices that protect water quality.

    • Adopt a Storm Drain (DOC) - Tips on protecting nearby nearby bodies of water by keeping storm drains clear.
    • Earth-friendly Lawn Care Tips (DOC) - Tips on maintaining a healthy lawn while minimizing your impact on the environment.
    • Five Easy Things (DOC) - Five easy steps you can take to improve the water quality of lakes, rivers and streams.
    • Rain Gardens (DOC) - Information about how rain gardens reduce runoff and resources that offer more information about installing rain gardens.
    • Water Quality Brochure (DOC) - 10 things that you can do to in your lawn, garden and around your house to improve Minnesota's lakes, rivers and streams.


    Additional assistance and resources may be available from the watershed organization in your area. Learn more about the watershed organizations in Hennepin County.

    The Wetland Conservation Act

    Hennepin County is responsible for enforcing the Wetland Conservation Act (WCA) the county. The main purpose of WCA, which was passed in 1991, is to “achieve no net loss in quantity, quality, and biological diversity of Minnesota’s wetlands.”

    Under WCA, the draining, filling or excavation of wetlands is prohibited unless the activities are exempted or a wetland of equal or greater value is restored or created. Anyone proposing to drain, fill or excavate a wetland must first obtain proper permits. Check with your city to obtain necessary permits.

    Hennepin County staff work with landowners and developers in the planning stage of projects to first avoid, second minimize and finally mitigate any impacts they have on wetlands.

    County staff also work with landowners who have wetland violations on their property to restore the wetland to its preexisting condition or to create a wetland of equal or greater value. The specific requirements the landowner must comply with in order to resolve the violation are detailed in Restoration Orders written by county staff.

    For more information

    Conservation easements

    Conservation easements are one of the most effective tools for permanently preserving natural resource corridors, ecologically significant natural areas and other open spaces located on private lands. They restrict development and certain activities in order to protect natural features on a property in perpetuity without exempting the land from property taxes.

    Hennepin County conservation easement program

    The Hennepin County Conservation Easement Program (PDF) establishes procedures for the evaluation of potential preservation opportunities for natural areas.  

    Reinvest in Minnesota conservation easements 

    Hennepin County administers 31 Reinvest in Minnesota (RIM) conservation easements.

    RIM strives to protect and improve water quality by encouraging landowners to retire environmentally sensitive land from agricultural production. The RIM program involves the acquisition of specific land rights for conservation purposes.

    Landowners who offer the state a conservation easement receive a payment to stop cropping and/or grazing the land and to initiate conservation practices such as establishing vegetative cover or restoring drained wetlands. Implementing conservation practices reduces soil erosion and sedimentation, enhances fish and wildlife habitat, improves flood control and recharges groundwater.

    Inspections of existing easements are done on a biannual basis to ensure compliance with terms of the easement. Due to a lack of funding, there is currently no opportunity for landowners to enroll in the RIM program in Hennepin County.

    Information on the RIM program from the Minnesota Board of Water and Soil Resources

    Agricultural inspection programs

    Hennepin County has many types of agricultural inspection programs including:

    • Biological control program for Purple Loosestrife and Leafy Spurge
    • Seed inspection and sampling program
    • Fertilizer registration inspection and sampling program 
    • Commercial feed inspection and sampling
    • Pesticide license inspections
    • Pesticide license testing
    • Pesticide registration inspections
    • Waste pesticide collection
    • Empty pesticide container collection
    • Noxious weed program

    Noxious weeds are plants that are injurious to public health, the environment, public roads, crops, livestock, and other property. Prohibited noxious weeds must be controlled or eradicated as required in Minnesota statutes, Chapter 18 section 18.78. For more information about noxious weeds in your neighborhood or to report noxious weeds, contact your city's weed inspector.

    For more information regarding these programs, please contact Greg Senst at 612-348-4659.

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