Minnesota’s 17.7 million acres of forestland makes up 22 percent of the land use in Minnesota. Minnesota’s forests are used for timber production, recreation, wildlife habitat, and increasingly, for home sites. The value of forest products has increased from $3.8 billion in 1985 to $8.2 billion dollars in 2014. The forest products industry is Minnesota's fifth largest manufacturing sector by employment. It provides over $16 billion in economic impact and creates 62,800 jobs.

In Minnesota, ownership of the 14.8 million acres of timberland is divided. County/municipal, state, and federal levels each own between 17-21 percent, with forest industries at 5 percent. The largest single block is private ownership, with a base of 40 percent or approximately 6 million acres. 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.

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.

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.

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.

Planning/Conservation Programs

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.


Dan Steward
Watershed/Private Forest Management Program Coordinator