Funding Future for Natural Resources and Outdoor Recreation

Boy at Afton State Park cross-country skiing



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A vision for the future of conservation and outdoor recreation in Minnesota

In Minnesota we go to outdoor spaces to relax, to adventure, to continue traditions, and to try something new. Nature provides water to drink, food to eat, places to live and thrive – for people and for all other creatures.

While Minnesotans have demonstrated support for the environment and outdoors, Minnesota’s current natural resources funding system can’t sustainably support the conservation efforts, natural resource management, and outdoor recreation opportunities we value for the future.

Help us move towards a future where:

We are looking for funding solutions that move us towards the vision and where:  

  • Minnesotans share in the “business case” and the “social case” for conservation and outdoor recreation investment, understanding what we gain or lose through investment choices, and apply this perspective in decision making
  • DNR and partners have sufficient funding to address natural resource issues, particularly the critical, emergent issues that will most impact Minnesota in coming years
  • Funding is predictable, stable, and flexible enough to meet its intended purposes for conservation and outdoor recreation management

Your input is critical to success

We want to hear your thoughts on the future of conservation and outdoor recreation in Minnesota and we need your help identifying funding solutions to achieve the future vision. Read the full vision statement.

Minnesota’s unique and enviable outdoor spaces and places belong to all Minnesotans, so DNR needs to hear different perspectives about how people envision the future of conservation and outdoor recreation in our state. Whether you experience the outdoors through camping, boating, hunting, fishing, wildlife watching, trail riding, or something else entirely, we want to hear from you.

Together, we have the opportunity to build the future we want.

The best way to stay informed about public input opportunities and project updates is to sign up for the project email list. You can also visit this project’s engagement page, Investing in Minnesota’s Outdoor Resources, to explore current opportunities to share your input.

Why change is needed

Minnesota’s current natural resources funding system can’t sustainably support continued conservation, natural resource management, and equitable access to quality outdoor recreation.  

For example, user fees cannot reasonably keep pace with inflation while also ensuring the DNR can appropriately steward resources and provide open and affordable access to the outdoors for all people.

And, while Minnesotans have demonstrated support for the environment and outdoors through the constitutionally-dedicated Environment and Natural Resources Trust Fund and Clean Water, Land and Legacy Amendment, these funds are targeted to specific uses and thus not available to support some key aspects of natural resource management. 

DNR’s approach

DNR is embarking on a transformational effort, in collaboration with Minnesotans, to identify a new funding framework to ensure that DNR can serve new, returning, and long-time outdoor enthusiasts, and sustainably manage our natural resources for generations to come.

Minnesotans will be co-creators in a vision for what is possible for the future of conservation and outdoor recreation. The approach will include diverse perspectives and focus on serving all Minnesotans equitably. It will allow DNR to manage in a more holistic manner while being adaptable to changing conditions. As with any funding source, accountability is a fundamental value.

Video: Commissioner Sarah Strommen invites Minnesotans to join the DNR in a new project to identify a future funding framework for conservation and outdoor recreation in the state.


Currently, the project is focusing on idea generation and public engagement to identify a future vision and possible funding solutions. By the second half of 2022, we will have an actionable funding framework that is reflective of research, best practices, and diverse public input.

Future funding timeline graphic

Full future funding vision

Future generations benefit from sustained and improved outdoor recreation experiences and conservation of natural resources.

The natural and outdoor resources of Minnesota are rich and unique. Minnesotans today, and in the future, deserve access to the benefits of nature and quality time outside. We have a wealth of experience and expertise in Minnesota to help guide decision making and management.

Key aspects for the future of outdoor recreation experiences and conservation includes:

  • Robust, diverse, and high-quality outdoor resources offering all Minnesotans nature-based recreation opportunities
  • Ample conservation of high-quality lands and waters providing all Minnesotans the benefits of high-functioning ecosystems
  • Conservation and outdoor recreation decisions based on community values and informed by science and proven best management practices

Minnesotans work together to support diverse outdoor recreation opportunities and conservation of our state’s natural features.

Minnesotans value our wonderfully diverse natural world, with its outstanding land and water resources and recreational opportunities. We also count on the diversity of people and organizations that care for Minnesota’s outdoors, from government agencies with statewide responsibilities, like the DNR to local groups or individuals focused on a single place special to them. These people and organizations can benefit Minnesota by embracing the complexities, looking for ways to work together, and lifting up what each person or organization does best.

Key aspects for the future of critical collaboration include:

  • The relationship between conservation and recreation uses and spaces is fully understood and accounted for in decision making
  • DNR and other Minnesota conservation and outdoor recreation organizations work together effectively, with the complexities of interconnected decision making well understood
  • Resources are managed in a manner that fosters innovation and adaptation to changing ecological, social, and technological conditions

Conservation and outdoor recreation opportunities equitably meet the needs of all Minnesotans.

All Minnesotans desire and deserve access to the outdoors and the benefits of healthy natural systems. Care for the resources is a shared responsibility, and access to natural spaces is a public right.

Key aspects of equitably providing conservation and outdoor recreation opportunities to all Minnesotans include: 

  • All Minnesotans can access conservation and outdoor recreation services and resources equitably, and management of resources adapts to meet Minnesotans’ needs as they change over time.
  • Support for conservation and outdoor recreation is broad-based with shared stewardship across users and uses
  • Minnesotans know how funding for conservation and outdoor recreation is invested and how their communities benefit

Conservation and outdoor recreation align with and are integrated into Minnesota state priorities of strong educational systems, equitable access to health resources, thriving economy, and reliable infrastructure.

Conservation and outdoor recreation are both priorities themselves and contribute to well-rounded education, health and wellness, and robust economy. Conservation and outdoor recreation and other state priorities will all advance if their relationships to each other are more closely considered.

Key aspects of aligning conservation and outdoor recreation with other Minnesota state priorities include:

  • Conservation and outdoor recreation are integrated with, supportive, and supported by other related state priorities
  • Conservation and outdoor recreation are recognized by all as “need to have”, rather than “nice to have”, in funding and policy decision making.
  • To help identify alignment with other priorities, solutions for management and funding issues are developed by participants with a variety of experiences and perspectives and with a broad definition of nature and nature experiences

Thank you!

Your support for Minnesota’s outdoor recreation and conservation work is critical to the state’s future.

We believe collective support and stewardship of Minnesota’s natural resources can lead to solutions to some of our most pressing challenges: public health, community resilience, equity, climate, and economic and natural resource sustainability.