Do you have all three components to start a school forest? If yes, read through these application steps. You should also contact School Forest Program staff before submitting your application to catch any steps you may miss or if you have questions along the way.
Your application must include:
- Name of a contact person who will be your site coordinator.
- Names of people who are on your site committee.
Once you have a site coordinator and committee identified, collect the following and attach them to your application:
1. Copy of property deed
After you identify the land you want to use, get a copy of the deed that legally describes the area of land and who owns it. The superintendent should have a deed for school-owned land. If not, contact the county recorder’s office. There may be a small fee to get the copy. The deed is important for administrators to understand the area of land the school is liable for.
2. Legal description
Include a legal description that precisely describes the location of the proposed school forest. The description should exclude buildings, parking lots, playgrounds, and other developed spaces. Writing a legal description can be done in a few different ways, but it needs to be correct. Your DNR forester can write a legal description for you. Contact School Forest Program staff for questions on how to get started.
Include a map that shows the precise location of your school forest and its boundaries. You can use an online tool to create a map or use a plat map (if your forest is an entire parcel). Include the number of acres on the map.
A map is a critical tool for communicating to school staff and the community the location and purpose of your school forest.
Include just the area you want to designate as a school forest. This typically includes natural areas, wetlands, trails, gardens, outdoor seating areas, and maybe a shed. Work with your administration to avoid including areas that may be earmarked for other uses in the future. For example, don’t include a natural area that the district intends to build a bus garage in the next few years. School forests should NOT include large buildings, parking lots, playgrounds, and other developed areas.
Esko School Forest, 34 acres, 1 mile from school
Cedar Park School Forest in Apple Valley, 2.45 acres, next to school
4. Agreement to use land
NOTE: If the school district already owns the land, you do not need an agreement.
If the school district does not own the land, you may need to get a “joint powers agreement” or management agreement. These agreements are between the school and the landowner and outlines how the property will be used, permissions, and liability. Agreements are most common between a school and a city, county, or private landowner.
Contact the School Forest Program staff for examples of agreements and to make sure the agreement includes critical points.
Make sure both parties sign the agreement before proposing a school board resolution to designate your school forest.
5. School board resolution
Your school board (or governing body) must officially vote and approve a resolution to designate your new school forest.
If the school does not own the land, your agreement with the landowner should be signed and in place before the board meets.
Steps to pass a resolution
You and your committee must submit a proposal (to the school board) to designate a school forest.
- Draft the proposal using the required resolution language.
- Share your proposal with School Forest Program staff to make sure it is correct.
- Send the proposal to the board secretary at least 2 weeks before the board meets, along with a map, legal description, and management agreement (if needed) as appendices.
- Plan to attend the meeting in person to present the proposal and answer questions. Bring support, such as other committee members, teachers, and parents.
- After the board votes and approves the resolution, obtain a copy of the board meeting minutes to include in your school forest application as evidence of board approval.
- Required resolution language
Basic format for a school board resolution to designate a school forest.
Resolved, the Board of Education of _______School District____ approves the establishment and maintenance of the ________Name of School Forest_________ and outdoor classroom comprising: (_____legal description_____), and supports enrollment of said school forest the in Minnesota DNR School Forest Program for educational purposes.
Include in appendix of board meeting packet:
Information about who owns the land and its precise location (legal description and map). If the school does not own the land, include a signed management or joint powers agreement with the landowner.
- Examples of resolutions
School Board resolutions may differ by district.
Sample 1: Resolved, the Board of Education of Proctor Public School District No. 704 approves the establishment and maintenance of the Proctor High School Forest and outdoor classroom comprising 15 acres described as North One-half of the Northeast one-quarter of the Southeast one-quarter (N ½ of NE ¼ of SE ¼), Section Nine (9), Township Forty-nine (49) North of Range Fifteen (15) West of the Fourth Principal Meridian, EXCEPT the East 660 feet of the South 330 feet, and supports the enrollment of said school forest in Minnesota DNR School Forest Program for educational purposes.
Sample 2: Chapman motioned, and Hiniker seconded to approve the establishment of Oneka School Forest and outdoor classroom comprising the 35.76 acres of land owned by ISD 624 known as the Oneka School Forest; and located at Outlot A of Water's Edge, Outlot F of Heritage Ponds, and Outlots D and C of Prairie Village, all in Washington County and supports the enrollment of said school forest in the DNR School Forest Program for educational purposes.
- Tips for passing a resolution
Outline the benefits and potential risks involved with the school forest before you meet. Anticipate their questions and be prepared with well thought out answers.
Bring supporters with you to the meeting such as school administers, teachers, students, parents, or committee members. At some school board meetings, students have presented PowerPoints about the proposed school forest.
When you present your proposal, show board members a map so everyone understands where the property is and its neighbors. Share photographs of the site, such as trail entrances, class pullout areas, bus parking areas, interesting natural features, etc.
Prepare to attend more than one meeting. The board may table your proposal if they have questions. Don't be discouraged. It's better to address all questions ahead of time.
Consult School Forest Program staff for support and information.
6. School forest application form
The application form brings it all together, outlining details about your school, names of committee members, deed, map, legal description, agreements, and a copy of the meeting minutes that describe how the board voted to approve and designate your school forest.
The application also provides a space to ask questions and start you on your way to further developing your staff skills and site.
Completing the form is your last step: School Forest application form