Landscape Changes From Growth And Development


aerial shot of lake

Minnesota is projected to grow by more than 1 million people in the next 20 years. With population growth and associated development come increasing demands on natural systems—our lakes and rivers, forests and grasslands, wetlands and shorelands. These landscapes are integral to our quality of life. They support a diversity of fish and wildlife habitats and ecosystems that form a foundation for agriculture, timber production, mineral extraction, human health, and recreation. They provide a spectrum of ecosystem services, including water purification, erosion control, and carbon sequestration.

Where and how we grow and develop influences the state's water and land health. Conservation-based approaches are imperative for creating sustainable developments that protect, restore, and enhance the natural environment - the foundation for long-term economic benefits and quality of life.


Density Change: Change in people per square mile of land area per decade

trends chart

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Change in population density between 1990 and 2000 and projected change between 2000 and 2030.
Sources: U.S. Bureau of the Census; and Minnesota Department of Administration, State Demographic Center, Minnesota Population Projections 2000-2030.

Population growth in Minnesota is expected to continue to concentrate in the Twin Cities metropolitan area and the corridor between Rochester and Saint Cloud.



Traditional development approach vs. low impact conservation development approach

map representing traditional development approach

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Under a traditional development approach (left), desired public values such as open space and clean water are not fully realized. Under a low-impact conservation development approach (right), the final plan includes one additional lot, more than twice as much protected natural area, and an endowment fund for long-term stewardship.
Source: City of Lino Lakes and Brauer & Associates, Ltd.

The landscape is changing in cities, suburbs, and towns. New development patterns are altering land use and impacting land and water conditions. For instance, as lakeshore develops, shorelines may lose their ability to support fish, wildlife, and clean water—the very resources that attracted people to them in the first place.

Development for urban and other uses can harm land and water health. However, many communities are choosing to foster low-impact, conservation-minded development that enhances land and water health and recreational and economic opportunities.


Annual Change in Habitat Acres

chart representing Annual Change in Habitat Acres (2006-2008)

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Total acres protected by state and federal farmland retirement programs and U.S. Fish and Wildlife Service and state Wildlife Management Area acquisition programs increased in 2006 and 2007. However, loss of acres enrolled in the federal CRP resulted in a net loss of 42,000 protected acres in 2008.

In the 1940s farmland provided diverse habitat for wildlife. By the 1980s, many acres had been converted to habitat-poor corn and soybeans.

In recent years, 1.8 million acres of Minnesota farmland have been enrolled in federal and state land conservation programs, benefiting wildlife and improving water quality. However, in 2008 farm crop prices increased dramatically and more than 60,000 acres were withdrawn from the federal Conservation Reserve Program (CRP).

Sustainable agriculture trends are encouraging. Organic agriculture is the fastest growing agricultural sector, and the demand for locally produced food is increasing. Minnesota now has more than 400 certified organic farms contributing to land and water health.

Invasive species

emerald ash borer
Emerald ash borer
David Cappaert, Michigan State University

Invasive species harm Minnesota's environment and economy and threaten human health. With increasing population and development, proactive conservation strategies are needed to minimize harm caused by the spread of invasive species such as emerald ash borer and Eurasian watermilfoil.