There are fourteen general soil classifications in Stearns County detailed in the Stearns County Soil Survey, and grouped generally into outwash plains and glacial till. The outwash plains are associated with shallower depth to bedrock areas while the glacial till is associated with deeper depth to bedrock areas. Soil features that are particularly important to land use planning are erodible and hydric soils. The first two figures below show the locations of erodible and hydric soils in Stearns County. Hydric soils are wet soils. Wet soils are not desirable for development, particularly for structures with basements. Erodible soils tend to be unstable if disturbed for either agriculture or development. Soil erosion has a direct impact on water quality in streams and lakes.

Prime farmland soils (see the third figure below) are defined by the U.S. Department of Agriculture (USDA) as “soils that are best suited for producing food, feed, forage, fiber, and oilseed crops.” The Stearns County Soil Survey (1980) also states that “Prime farmland soils produce the highest yields with minimal inputs of energy and economic resources, and farming these soils results in the least damage to the environment.” Within Stearns County, prime farmland soils are predominant in the Sauk River watershed and much of the northeast area of the County. These soils are less common in the southwest, the southeast, and much of the Avon Hills, although much of the farmland in these areas is still of high quality. Prime and other important farmland soils are considered an important natural resource that can be permanently destroyed or damaged by development.

Farmland Soil Resources: The following resources are examples of tools used to help identify prime soils for farming. These tools, and others should be referenced when making planning decisions.

  • Land Evaluation and Site Assessment (LESA): LESA is a numeric rating system for scoring sites (based on land capacity factors, including soil ratings) to help make land use decisions (see Page 142 for
    more information). The LESA system was designed specifically to assess where the best farmlands are located locally. The system provides an objective and consistent tool for evaluating the relative importance of specific sites for continued agricultural use. The LESA rating system is used as a tool to assist decision makers in assessing agricultural land in Stearns County. To learn more, please reference the Future Land Use Plan Decision Criteria.
  • Web Soil Survey (WSS): WSS provides soil data and information produced by the National Cooperative Soil Survey. It is operated by the USDA Natural Resources Conservation Service (NRCS) and provides access to the largest natural resource information system in the world. NRCS has soil maps and data available online for more than 95 percent of the nation’s counties and anticipates having 100 percent in the near future.

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