When French explorers first arrived in what was to become south central Minnesota, they marveled at the vast expanse of hardwood forest. Tall old maple, elm, oak and basswood towered over wildflowers carpeting the forest floor each spring. The French called this impressive 3,000 square mile forest, le bois grand -- Big Woods.
The Big Woods once covered nearly 2 million acres of our state in a broad swath that teemed with a wealth of plant and animal life. Today, only about 5 percent of this biologically diverse habitat remains. To better protect what's left, the 2000 Minnesota legislature authorized designation of the Big Woods Heritage Forest.
Unlike most state forests, with large tracts of publicly owned land, the Big Woods Heritage Forest relies largely on voluntary partnerships with private landowners in the counties that have endorsed it. By helping individual landowners better understand and take care of what's left of the Big Woods, the DNR can maintain and enhance the health of this unique ecosystem. Public lands that contain Big Woods remnants, such as state and local parks and wildlife management areas, also can be included in the Heritage Forest.
Landowners who participate in the Big Woods Heritage Forest can receive expert help in managing their woods while preserving an important part of our natural heritage.
For more information: DNR Central Region 651-259-5800