When does the DNR buy land?

The Minnesota Department of Natural Resources (DNR) purchases land and interests in land in order to provide a variety of recreational and natural resource opportunities such as state parks, water accesses, trails, scientific and natural areas, wildlife management areas, and aquatic management areas. Sometimes easement interests are acquired rather than a fee or full title interest. For example, prairie bank easements protect against development of prairie areas and trout stream easements allow angler access and management of trout streams.

The decision to buy land is based on the availability of funds to make the purchase and the setting of priorities for the types of sites to be purchased. Quite often the legislature directs the purchase of specific sites.

Would the DNR be interested in buying my property?

If your property contains significant resource values or is located within an existing management area, the DNR may be interested in purchasing your property. If you would like the DNR to consider buying your property, contact the regional Lands and Minerals Division staff in your area (contact information is listed below). The staff will ask for some basic information about your property, and this information will be shared with regional staff from the various DNR divisions. An initial decision will be made on whether to proceed further with a possible acquisition of your property.

How much does the DNR pay for land?

The lands are examined and appraised by a licensed appraiser, usually a private party under contract with the DNR. The landowner will be invited to accompany the appraiser during his or her inspection of the property. All appraisals are based on the fair market value of comparable lands which have been conveyed in recent transactions in the local area of the properties to be acquired. The appraisal will also be reviewed by another licensed appraiser.

The landowner is provided a summary of the certified appraisal. There is no obligation to accept an offer from the DNR. The landowner also has the option of hiring an appraiser to provide an independent opinion of value, with this appraisal considered by the DNR along with the state's appraisal. If the landowner hires an appraiser, up to $1,500 of the cost of the appraisal may be reimbursed if the DNR purchases the land.

What are the procedures for a land acquisition by the DNR?

The Division of Lands and Minerals administers the acquisition program in cooperation with various DNR divisions. A real estate specialist coordinates the discussions with the seller and makes the offer to purchase.

All negotiations are based on the willing buyer, willing seller concept. This means that the DNR acquires lands from parties who are willing to sell and who enter into a contract with the state for that sale. As provided under state law (Minnesota Statutes, sec. 84.0274) the potential seller is provided a letter explaining the "landowners' bill of rights" which provides protections to the landowner and identifies responsibilities of the DNR in the acquisition process.

If the seller accepts the offer, the seller signs an option agreement which grants the DNR permission to buy the property. The DNR will examine title to the property; the seller must have marketable title to the property before a purchase will be completed. The DNR will also determine if a survey is needed prior to exercising the option to purchase the property.

How long does it take to complete an acquisition?

It can take several months for the department to investigate the desirability of a property and identify funds for a purchase. Once that is completed, an appraisal needs to be requested, completed, and reviewed before an offer to the landowner can be made. This process takes at least three months and can take a while longer depending on specific circumstances.

Once an offer is accepted by a landowner, it will take on the average two to four months to complete a purchase. If a survey is needed or if federal money will be used for the purchase, the acquisition will take several additional months. Payment is made at a personal closing, or if closing by mail, after the signed deed of conveyance is recorded and the abstract is brought up-to-date.

The DNR is required to pay relocation expenses if the purchase displaces owners or tenants from their residences, displaces a business, or causes a business to cease operating.

If the DNR does not want to purchase my land, are there any other options available from the DNR?

The DNR accepts donations of land. The donation could be the fee interest in the land or a conservation easement that protects against certain types of development of the land. If the land does not contain significant resource values, the property may be accepted with the understanding that it will be sold or exchanged to acquire other lands for natural resource use. The land will be inspected prior to donation to make sure it does not contain environmental hazards or that significant clean-up or maintenance costs would be incurred.

Another option is an exchange of privately-owned land for state land. Please see the Land Exchange page for more information on the land exchange process. A guiding principle is that the land being exchanged must be of substantially equal value as the state land. Generally, the goal of a land exchange is to allow more efficient and productive management of lands. Quite often an exchange consolidates or fills in the state's land holdings within existing management units, such as state forests or wildlife management areas. Any exchange should result in improvement in the protection, use, or management of the natural resources and increase public benefits for present and future generations.

An infrequently used option is for the DNR to lease the land from the landowner for a specific purpose. Generally, condemnation of the land (taking of the land through court action for public purposes, with payment to the landowner) is not an option used by the DNR unless the landowner requests such action or the condemnation is authorized by the legislature for a specific site.

Contact the regional Lands and Minerals Division staff in your area if you are interested in a donation or exchange.

More information

Contact your Division of Lands and Minerals staff for more information.

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