DNR Subsection Forest Resource Management Planning


For many years the DNR defined its timber harvesting activities in five- or 10-year forest resource management plans developed for each of its 30 administrative forestry areas. Public involvement in the development or review of these timber management plans was limited.

Since 2000, the DNR has been developing its forest resource management plans using the subsection level of its ecological classification system (ECS) rather than DNR administrative areas.

The DNR also has made its forest management planning process more standardized, interdisciplinary, and formal, with more opportunities for public review and input.

Map of Ecological Classification System subsections.
Map of Ecological Classification System subsections.
Map of Ecological Classification System subsections.

What is a DNR Subsection Forest Resource Management Plan?

A Subsection Forest Resource Management Plan (SFRMP) is a DNR plan for managing vegetation on forest lands administered by the divisions of Forestry and Wildlife. ECS subsections, not administrative boundaries, are the basic units of delineation. The focus of the subsection plans will be:

  • Identifying a long-term strategic direction for DNR Forestry- and Wildlife-administered forest lands. The strategic component of SFRMPs will focus on long-term strategic direction in response to identified issues, strategies to implement the general direction, and identification of quantifiable ultimate desired future forest composition (DFFC) goals. DFFCs could include the amount of various forest types within the subsection, age-class distribution of forest types, geographic distribution of forest types and age classes across the subsection, and size and location of forest patches. The strategic direction, strategies, and DFFCs will be guided by, among other things, assessment information, key issues, department policy, legislative mandates, and forest management direction from other forest planning efforts (e.g., Minnesota Forest Resources regional landscape plans, national forest plans). DNR subsection teams will also establish 10-year forest composition objectives and treatment levels for moving toward ultimate DFFC goals. Subsection teams may also establish other interim (i.e., 25-year, 50-year) forest composition goals to help track progress toward the DFFCs over time.
  • Identifying forest stands to be treated over a 10-year period. SFRMPs will identify forest stands on DNR Forestry- and Wildlife-administered lands that are proposed for treatment (e.g., harvest, thinning, regeneration, prescribed burning, reinventory) over the 10-year planning period. Forest stands will be selected using criteria developed to begin moving DNR forest land toward the long-term DFFCs. Possible criteria include stand age; site productivity; size, number, and species of trees; soils; and stand location. Many decisions and considerations go into developing these criteria and the list of stands proposed for treatment. Examples include identification of areas to be managed as old growth and extended rotation forest; areas to be managed at normal rotation age; patch management objectives; management of riparian areas and visually sensitive travel corridors; age and cover-type distributions; and regeneration, thinning, and prescribed burning needs. Decisions will favor management activities (including no action) that will best move the forest landscape toward the DFFC goals.

Process objectives

The objectives of the SFRMP process are to:

  • increase interdisciplinary involvement and use of consent-based decision making
  • inform and involve the public and stakeholders
  • complete the process in each ECS subsection in a reasonable amount of time (target 12–15 months)
  • conduct a process that is reasonable and feasible given staffing levels and workloads
  • develop plans that are credible to most and that enable good forest management.

Experience, new information, new issues, changing conditions, and the desire to broaden the focus of SFRMPs in the future will demand that the process be flexible and adaptable over time. The plans will also need to be flexible to reflect changing conditions. The SFRMP process will provide for annual reviews by DNR planning teams to monitor implementation and determine whether plans need to be updated to respond to unforeseen substantial changes in forest conditions.

Subsection team composition

Subsection teams will be limited to seven people:

  • region Wildlife staff (usually the forestry/wildlife coordinator)
  • region Forestry staff (usually the region timber sales program lead)
  • Ecological Resources designee (appointed by the Ecological Resources director)
  • two area forest supervisors or designees (appointed by the regional forest manager)
  • two area wildlife managers or designees (appointed by the regional wildlife manager)

Managers of adjacent county, federal, tribal, and industrial forest lands will be invited to provide information about the condition of their forest lands and their future management direction. This information will help the DNR make better decisions on the forest lands it administers.


graphic of public involvement on subsection planning

Public involvement

Public involvement will, at a minimum, occur through:

  • distribution of the initial assessment information
  • a public comment period to help identify key forest management issues and solicit public opinion on management
  • a public review and comment period for the draft strategic direction (i.e., general direction statements, strategies, and quantifiable desired future condition goals), draft 10-year stand selection to implement the strategic direction, and resulting estimates of new access needs
  • Public review and comment on proposed plan revisions

SFRMP planning documents will be available in hard copy at DNR area forestry offices, selected public locations, and by request, and electronically on the DNR website and on CD. Summary information will also be available upon request.


Relation to other forestresource planning efforts

DNR SFRMPs are guided by other statewide forest resource planning efforts including:

  • the DNR Strategic Conservation Agenda (2003–2007)
  • DNR Directions 2000
  • Minnesota Forest Resources Council (MFRC) Vision and Goals
  • statewide DNR policies and guidelines (e.g., old growth, extended rotation forest, MFRC site-level guidelines).

In addition, the SFRMP process needs to consider the strategic landscape direction developed by the MFRC regional landscape committees and communicated via the MFRC regional landscape plans. Plans have been completed for most forested parts of the state. DNR SFRMP teams need to determine the role DNR Forestry- and Wildlife-administered lands will play in achieving the broader MFRC regional landscape goals.
The DNR is moving away from DNR regional resource plans. Existing DNR regional forest/natural resource management plans will provide useful information to begin discussions for SFRMPs, but management direction, issues, strategies, and DFFCs will be determined anew through the SFRMP process.
Other planning efforts are considered when developing SFRMPs. These include local comprehensive planning, national forest planning, county forest planning, local zoning and planning, and other DNR planning efforts, such as off-highway vehicle (OHV) trail system planning. The SFRMP process provides input and to brings back relevant direction and information from these efforts, to help guide SFRMP decisions.