Wetlands Conservation

Wetland Facts and Rules for Cass County

  • State Wetland Rules have been in place since 1991.
  • Cass County has 8 types of wetlands within its borders.
  • The most common types of wetlands in Cass County are Type 6 and Type 7 Black Ash.
  • Only a small percentage of wetlands have continual standing water or cattails in them. This is a very common misconception; most wetlands will lack standing water or waterlogged soils for at least part of the growing season. 
  • Any and all work done in a wetland requires at minimum a Contractor /Landowner Form and a Notice of Decision Form you may obtain these by contacting the SWCD to discuss proposed project.
  • A landowner and/or contractor must have copies on site when the work is being completed and non-compliance may result in a criminal misdemeanor.
  • No wetland filling is allowed within the setback area of Public Waters.
  • Wetlands conditions may still exist even if it is your “yard.” For information on how a wetland can be recognized, see this PDF from the US Army Corps of Engineers: Recognizing Wetlands (PDF)
  • To find a wetland delineator you can visit the MN Board of Water and Soil Resources certified professionals list or https://www.mnwetlandprofessionals.org/consultant-directory

The 8 Types of Wetlands in Cass County

Type 1: Seasonally Flooded Basins or Flood Plains

Vegetation in these wetlands varies according to season and the amount of flooding. Type 1 wetlands are beneficial as wildlife habitats such as waterfowl and amphibians and help protect water quality through filtration as well as groundwater recharge and discharge.

Type 2: Wet Meadows

These wetlands have soil without standing water for most of the growing season, but the soil is saturated below the surface. Common vegetation in Type 2 wetlands includes grasses, sedges, rushes, and broad leaf plants. These wetlands provide the same functions mentioned above in Type 1.

Type 3: Shallow Marshes

In the spring, Type 3 wetlands often have 6 or more inches of standing water. Vegetation in shallow marshes includes grasses, bulrushes, spikerushes, and cattails among others. These wetlands protect water quality, retain floodwater, and offer recreation such as hunting and canoeing.

Type 4: Deep Marshes

Typically deep marshes will be covered with anywhere from 6 inches to 3 feet of standing water in spring. Cattails, reeds, bulrushes, spikerushes, and wild rice are common. In open areas submergent and floating vegetation such as pondweed, coontail, duckweed, and waterlilies can be seen. Type 4 wetlands may fill shallow lake basins, potholes, limestone sinks, and depressions, or border open water. They provide water quality protection, floodwater retention, wildlife and fisheries habitat, and recreation.

Type 5: Open Water Wetlands

These wetlands include shallow ponds and reservoirs. Water must be less than 6 feet and bordered by emergent vegetation. Type 5 wetlands provide all of the same benefits listed in Type 4.

Type 6: Shrub Swamps

Soil in these wetlands is waterlogged for most of the growing season and can be covered with as much as 6 inches of water. Vegetation in these shrub swamps includes dogwoods, willows, alders, and leatherleaf. Benefits provided by these wetlands include wildlife habitat, water quality, floodwater retention, and low flow augmentation.

Type 7:Wooded Swamps

In these wetlands, soil can be covered by as much as a foot of water but will typically be waterlogged to within a few inches of the surface. Trees found in wooded swamps include tamarack, black spruce, red maple, black ash, and commonly in Cass County, white cedar. In addition to the benefits listed for Type 6 wetlands, wooded swamps can also be a source for timber harvesting.

Type 8: Bogs

In bogs, soil is usually waterlogged and covered with spongy moss. Plants found here include sphagnum moss, sedges, labrador tea, leatherleaf, cranberries, cottongrass, stunted tamaracks, and black spruce. Peat mining is a benefit in addition to those listed for the Type 6 wetlands.

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Wetland Conservation Act (WCA) History

The goal of the WCA is to maintain and protect Minnesota's wetlands and the benefits they provide. To reach the legislation's goal of no-net-loss of wetlands, the Wetland Conservation Act requires anyone proposing to drain, fill, or excavate a wetland first to try to avoid disturbing the wetland; second, to try to minimize any impact on the wetland; and, finally, to replace any lost wetland acres, functions, and values.

Initiated in 1991 in reaction to public concern about disappearing wetlands in Minnesota, the Minnesota Legislature approved and Governor Arne Carlson signed the Wetland Conservation Act. An interim program became effective on January 1, 1992, and in 1994 the full program began. The WCA has been amended many times to accommodate the varying needs of different geographic areas of Minnesota.

The Wetland Conservation Act recognizes a number of wetland benefits deemed important, including:

  • Water quality, including filtering pollutants out of surface water and groundwater, using nutrients that would otherwise pollute public waters, trapping sediments, protecting shoreline, and recharging groundwater supplies;
  • Floodwater and stormwater retention,
  • including reducing the potential for flooding in the watershed;
  • Public recreation and education, including hunting and fishing areas, wildlife viewing areas, and nature areas;
  • Commercial benefits, including wild rice and cranberry growing areas and aquaculture areas;
  • Fish and wildlife benefits; and
  • Low-flow augmentation during times of drought.