Natural and Scenic Area grants

Program purpose:

To increase, protect and enhance natural and scenic areas. This program is established in Minnesota Statutes 85.019

How it works:

Provides matching grants to local units of government for up to 50% of the cost of acquisition of natural and scenic areas.

Eligible applicants:

Cities, counties, townships and school districts.

Eligible projects:

Eligible projects include fee title acquisition and permanent easement acquisition. For more information, read the use guidelines in the Program Manual.

Minimum requirements:

Project proposals must have a total project cost of at least $20,000. The applicant must be the intended owner and manager of the property to be acquired.

Level of assistance:

A maximum of 50% of the total eligible project costs not to exceed a maximum grant of $500,000. Costs must be incurred and paid for before reimbursement can be made. Applicants are eligible to receive more than one grant. Significant progress must be completed on active projects before an additional proposal can be submitted.

Grant funding available:

The program finances projects using federal funds through the Land and Water Conservation Fund (LAWCON). Federal Funding available for FY 2021 is at least $385,000 and may be up to $1.5 million for the Outdoor Recreation Grant Program and the Natural and Scenic Areas Grant Program.

State funding available for FY 2021 is $975,000 in Environmental and Natural Resources Trust Fund (ENRTF) dollars. Additional ENRTF dollars have been recommended by the Legislative Citizens Commission on Minnesota Resources (LCCMR) and may be available subject to Legislative approval.

Funding priorities:

The 2020-2024 State Comprehensive Outdoor Recreation Plan (SCORP) is Minnesota's outdoor recreation policy plan. This plan was developed with public and stakeholder input. It establishes outdoor recreation priorities for Minnesota to assist outdoor recreation and natural resource managers, the state legislature, and the executive branch in decision-making about the state's outdoor recreation system and sets out criteria for awarding grants consistent with these identified priorities. This program focuses on the Strategic Direction, Acquire Land and Create Opportunities in the SCORP specifically identified under Strategic Acquisition.

The project review priorities will assess the natural resource qualities of the site such as endangered, threatened, rare or special concern species or communities, high quality native terrestrial or aquatic ecosystems, ecological viability, outstanding geological or physiographic features, protection of water quality and potential vulnerability to exotic species.

Scenic qualities such as blufflands or other elevated terrain that afford an opportunity for viewing scenic vistas, viewing unique natural features, viewing unique historical or cultural features, and shoreland properties that offer scenic vistas across lakes or streams will be assessed. Other review components include adjacent lands, educational and scientific values, open space and historical/cultural values and local government commitment.

Grant awards:

The Department of Natural Resources will review and rank applications during the spring of 2020. Preliminary grant awards will be announced in the summer of 2020.

Project period:

Projects cannot begin until all requested final documentation has been submitted and an agreement between the applicant and the state has been signed. Project start dates may be in the fall of 2020 or later, depending on the funding available and the project ranking. Funded projects must begin promptly after an agreement has been signed. All work must be completed no later than June 30, 2022.

To apply:

The completed application is due March 27, 2020. 


Further information:

Grants Manager
Local Grants Program
Department of Natural Resources
500 Lafayette Road, Box 52
St. Paul, MN 55155
Fax: (651) 296-5475