Environmentalists push back against proposed changes to 'buffer law'

Trout fishing season opens this weekend amid concerns among environmental advocates--they're pushing back against proposed changes to state law that they say would make waters more polluted.

A change to the so-called “buffer law” is included in the house version of the environmental finance bill.

Republicans said the plan halts overspending and reduces unnecessary regulations. Opponents say the bill goes too far and would undo decades of progress.

“We've made so much progress on cleaning up streams and having better water quality, we don't want to go back now to 30 years ago when we didn't have the science to show that this works,” said Dan Callahan, a volunteer with the Twin Cities chapter of Minnesota Trout United.

Callahan is talking about a provision concerning vegetative buffers. According to the Minnesota DNR, the permanent plantings intercept stormwater and minimize runoff.

“And if you get more sediment in, it just cascades down, you start losing fish, you start losing aquatic invertebrates and all of the public investment gets squandered,” Callahan said.

Some farmers think the current law, passed in 2015, is too broad and includes lands that should be considered private. They are also concerned about compensation for lost property. The proposal change also delays implementation of the buffer requirements.

The Senate version of the environmental package differs from the House version so that would have to be worked out in a conference committee before the bill goes to Governor Mark Dayton’s desk. He has indicated he would oppose any significant rollbacks of the buffer law.