Minnesota Land Cover Classification System

The Minnesota Land Cover Classification System (MLCCS) is a tool that fills an important informational niche for natural resource managers and planners: it categorizes urban and built-up areas in terms of land cover rather than land use.

MLCCS system

MLCCS consists of five hierarchical levels. At the highest level, land cover is divided into either "natural/semi-natural" or "cultural" cover types.


The natural/semi-natural classification system is a hybrid of the National Vegetation Classification System (NVCS) and the Minnesota Natural Heritage plant communities. The NVCS is used for the top three levels of the system, while the fourth and fifth levels rely on Minnesota Natural Heritage community types.

Level 1 - General growth patterns (e.g., forest, woodland, shrubland)
Level 2 - Plant types (e.g., deciduous, coniferous, grasslands, forbs)
Level 3 - Soil hydrology (e.g., upland, seasonally flooded, saturated)
Level 4 & Level 5 - Plant species composition, (e.g., floodplain forest, rich fen sedge, jack pine barrens)


The cultural classification system is designed to identify built-up/vegetation patterns and an area's imperviousness to water infiltration. Most other land inventory classification systems, such as the USGS Anderson system, employ land use terminology (e.g., urban, commercial, residential). This system distinguishes among land cover types at five levels.

Level 1 - Presence of built-up elements (i.e., built-up vs. cultivated land)
Level 2 - Dominant vegetation (e.g., trees, shrubs, herbaceous)
Level 3 - Plant type (e.g., deciduous, coniferous)
Level 4 - Percent of impervious surface or soil hydrology
Level 5 - Specific plant species

This cultural classification is unique in that it emphasizes vegetation land cover instead of land use, thus creating a land cover inventory especially useful for resource managers and planners.

MLCCS documents

More information

Minnesota Department of Natural Resources developed the MLCCS in cooperation with other state, federal and local agencies. For more information, contact:

Bart Richardson, GIS Project Manager, MNIT at DNR, [email protected] (651) 259-5796

Read about the development of MLCCS.

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