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Home > Protecting Our Lands & Waters > Conservation > Conservation Practices > Wetland Restoration

Conservation Practices
Minnesota Conservation Funding Guide

Wetland Restoration

Newly restored wetlands in the Conservation Reserve Program. Photo courtesy USDA NRCS.
Newly restored wetlands in the Conservation Reserve Program. Photo courtesy USDA NRCS.

Wetland restoration reestablishes or repairs the hydrology, plants and soils of a former or degraded wetland that has been drained, farmed or otherwise modified since European settlement. The goal is to closely approximate the original wetland's natural condition, resulting in multiple environmental benefits.

Restoring wetland hydrology typically involves breaking drainage tile lines, building a dike or embankment to retain water and/or installing adjustable outlets to regulate water levels.

Restored wetland plants usually include a mix of native water-loving grasses, sedges, rushes and forbs (broad-leaved flowering plants) in the basin or ponded area and a mix of native grasses and forbs in upland buffers around the basin.

In Minnesota, the most commonly restored wetlands are depressional wetlands in the prairie pothole region of the state and floodplain wetlands along rivers and streams.

Environmental benefits

  • Improves surface and ground water quality by collecting and filtering sediment, nutrients, pesticides and bacteria in runoff
  • Reduces soil erosion and downstream flooding by slowing overland flow and storing runoff water
  • Wetland plants and ponded conditions utilize trapped nutrients, restore soil organic matter and promote carbon sequestration
  • Provides food, shelter and habitat for many species and enables the recovery of rare or threatened plant communities
  • Restored prairie pothole wetlands provide breeding grounds for ducks, geese and other migratory waterfowl whose habitat is threatened
  • Connects fragmented habitat when part of a larger complex of wetlands

Practical benefits

  • Provides an alternative to crops or livestock in wet marginal areas
  • May significantly reduce flood damage
  • Creates ideal hunting grounds and opportunities to view migratory birds as they pass through Minnesota
  • May recharge groundwater supplies by slowly releasing water into the ground
  • Provides habitat for important pollinator species many crops rely on, such as bees
  • Adds scenic beauty

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Similar & related practices

  • Wetland restoration projects in Minnesota typically involve grass planting to create upland buffers around the wetland basin.
  • Some floodplain wetland restoration projects involve tree planting. Other practices related to floodplain wetland restoration include grass filter strips and streambank and lakeshore protection.
  • Wetland restoration often includes special consideration for wildlife, such as installing wood duck boxes, goose nests or other features of duck nesting habitat, general habitat or rare & declining habitat.
  • Restored wetlands may require control of invasive species such as reed canary grass.
  • Wetland restoration differs from but involves many of the same activities as wetland enhancement, wetland creation and wetland construction. Whereas wetland restoration reestablishes a former wetland:
    • Wetland construction establishes a wetland to treat agricultural runoff water on a site that may or may not have been a wetland historically.

    More information

    Guidance from USDA's Natural Resources Conservation Service (NRCS)

    Other resources

    Also see resources for Similar & related practices listed above.

    Wetland restoration in Minnesota, by the numbers

    • Performance Results System (PRS) - USDA-NRCS website with data on the number and acreage of conservation practices funded by NRCS and others from 1991 to the present by state, county, watershed or congressional district. For wetland restoration data, select the Reports tab at the top of the screen, and then choose the Wetlands category under the Conservation Practices heading.


    See contacts for specific programs that fund this practice in the side-by-side payment comparison or contact your local Soil and Water Conservation District