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Dayton wants 50-foot buffer zones around waterways standard in Minnesota

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Gov. Mark Dayton says 50-foot buffer zones along lakes and other waterways should be standard in Minnesota.

Speaking at a Department of Natural Resources conference Friday, Dayton said the requirement would reduce water pollution and increase wildlife habitat, particularly for pheasants, the Associated Press reports.

The AP says buffer zones of grass or other vegetation are already required on some of the state's waters, but enforcement at the local level has been spotty.

Dayton's proposal would stiffen penalties for failing to keep a buffer zone and would turn enforcement over to the DNR, possibly using aerial inspections.

The governor expects revenue from fines would balance the cost of additional enforcement, the Star Tribune reports.

Last month Dayton led a summit meeting in Marshall to look at ways to reverse Minnesota's declining pheasant population. Buffer zones around rivers, streams, and lakes topped the list of suggestions.

The AP reports Dayton anticipated that some property owners will criticize his plan as a government intrusion onto private lands, and offered this rebuttal: "Yes, the land may be yours, but the water belongs to all of us and (those) who will follow after all of us," Dayton said.

The state Agriculture Department has long encouraged farmers to use a strip of grass as a filter between fields and surface water. The department says in addition to helping water quality and wildlife habitat, it can stabilize eroding riverbanks and reduce downstream flooding.

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