Forest stewardship

DNR forester and landowner walking in landowner's woodlands

The DNR Forest Stewardship Program helps woodland owners manage their woods through advice and education, cost-share programs, and woodland stewardship plans. We work through a statewide network of DNR, public, and private foresters specially trained in forest stewardship. Forest stewardship focuses on helping woodland owners actively manage their land and natural resources, keeping the land healthy for present and future generations, and increasing the benefits of the land. We are ready to help you achieve your woodland goals, whether it is to create wildlife habitat, increase natural beauty, improve trails, enhance environmental benefits, or harvest timber.

Deciduous forest in fall

Managing your woods

Woodland management is all the things you do to keep your woods healthy and beautiful. This work tends to happen in small steps over multiple years. For example, if you want to improve wildlife habitat you may need to remove invasive plants to allow native plants to grow, and then plant the right trees to increase food for wildlife. After time, you may need to remove some trees to decrease competition and increase the health of remaining trees. These actions make your woods attractive to wildlife and also provide environmental benefits. We use woodland stewardship plans to help you organize and complete all of these steps.

Woodland stewardship plans

A woodland stewardship plan helps you understand what is in your woods, how to improve them, and when to do work. A unique plan is developed for your woods based on your land management goals. The plan can help you stay on track over the long-term and keep your woods healthy and beautiful. Plans are written for woodland owners with 20 to 5,000 acres where at least 10 acres have or will have trees. Plans are updated every 10 years to stay current with your needs and your woods.

Plans are written by foresters and staff at environmental organizations and Soil and Water Conservation Districts approved by the DNR. The cost for a woodland stewardship plan depends on who writes it and the size of your woods.

While a DNR forester can write your plan, most plans are written by approved Minnesota woodland stewardship plan writers.

Financial benefits for woodland owners

Cost-share program: The DNR has cost-share funds available to help woodland owners complete projects to improve your woods (if you have one, these are steps outlined in your woodland stewardship plan). A DNR forester works with you to develop a project plan. Project work can be done by you or a contractor. Sample projects include: wildlife and pollinator habitat improvement, tree planting, bud capping, invasive species removal, tree thinning, timber stand improvement and forest road work. More information can be found on the DNR's Cost-share for woodland owners webpage.

Incentive programs: The Minnesota Sustainable Forest Incentive Act (SFIA) is an incentive program to keep forests as forests on our landscape. The program is jointly managed by Minnesota Department of Revenue and DNR. 2c Managed Forest Land is a property tax designation that offers Minnesota woodland owners a property tax rate of 0.65% on actively managed woodland. For both programs, landowners with at least 20 acres of forest land under a registered woodland stewardship plan that was written within the last 10 years may be eligible.

The main difference between SFIA and 2c is length of commitment. SFIA is a long-term commitment (8, 20, or 50 years), which stays with the land upon sale or transfer. 2c is a short-term commitment (year-to-year) and does not transfer with the land upon sale or transfer. Comparing how much you would save in property taxes versus how much you would get in yearly payments, along with how long you want to commit, will determine if you enroll in 2c versus SFIA.

The Forest Stewardship Program is funded by the USDA Forest Service and run by the Minnesota Department of Natural Resources.

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