Minnesota’s 17.4 million acres of forest land comprise 22 percent of Minnesota's land area. Minnesota’s forests are used for timber production, recreation, wildlife habitat, and increasingly, for home sites. The forest products industry is Minnesota's fifth largest manufacturing sector by employment. It provides over $17 billion in economic impact and creates 64,500 jobs.

Forested landscapes are a mix of private, tribal and public land. Of the 15 million acres of commercially productive timberland in Minnesota, county/municipal, state, and federal levels each own between 13 and 18 percent. Private, tribal and industry-owned lands constitute the largest block of landholdings, at 53 percent or approximately 8 million acres (see DNR, Minnesota Facts & Figures: Forests).

Managing private forest lands is complicated by the large number of owners and the multiple entities that provide services to these owners. A recent USDA survey shows considerable fragmentation into small holdings. Ownership of less than 20 acres is the fastest growing category. According to a recent USDA Forest Service forest inventory analysis, there are more than 125,000 landowners in the 0-20 acre category. Many of these smaller parcels are in sensitive areas adjacent to lakes, streams, and rivers.

Many of these small tract owners are not interested or able to manage their property for timber/fiber production. They are far more interested in other recreational uses of their property, as indicated by survey research.

It is expected that the cost and value of wood products will continue to increase, along with the increasing fragmentation of smaller holdings of timberland. This makes management of these lands even more critical.

BWSR's Role

Many of Minnesota’s soil and water conservation districts (SWCDs) have active forestry/tree programs to help private landowners manage their resources wisely. BWSR helps support these programs by offering training, information, and technical assistance on forestry and agroforestry issues. BWSR also coordinates local programs to ensure an organized statewide effort and works to integrate private forest management / agroforestry programs into local SWCD efforts. County-level programs are aligned with work being done by the DNR, using easements and other conservation practices to protect wildlife and water quality. Unlike more traditional agricultural easements, working forests easements allow landowners to continue to harvest and manage their timber under an approved Forest Stewardship Plan. A landscape stewardship plan is a multi-landowner Forest Stewardship Plan developed at a watershed scale. 

Managing Private Forests on a Landscape Level (pdf) summarizes the process of developing landscape stewardship plans, their relationship to comprehensive watershed management plans (under One Watershed One Plan), and the prioritize-target-measure approach to watershed management.

Planning/Conservation Programs

  • One Watershed, One Plan (1W1P). Plans created under the 1W1P program address many issues relevant to the management of forest land, including water quality protection and restoration, flood mitigation, and habitat enhancement for fish and wildlife.

Easement Programs

  • RIM Wild Rice Conservation Easement Program. RIM Wild Rice Conservation easements protect wild rice lakes on privately owned lands in Minnesota’s Northern Forest region. Permanent easements protect this important resource from the threat of future development.

  • Mississippi Headwaters Habitat Corridor Easements (pdf). This program’s purpose is to protect and preserve the natural qualities of the Mississippi River in priority areas with a focus on headwaters lakes and connecting streams.


Lindberg Ekola
Forest Stewardship Planning Coordinator