Purchased or School Owned
- Land can be purchased by the school district for the purpose of establishing and maintaining a School Forest. Or, if the school district owns existing land that can become a part of the program.
- The School Forest Statute (Minn. Statute, Section 89.41) allows tax-forfeited land to be deeded to a school district or educational institution. This process involves working with county government, since county offices administer most tax-forfeited land in Minnesota.
- Schools can enter into partnership with a city, corporation, or private landowner to gain access to land. The most common partnerships are with city entities to use community parks as School Forests.
- While land donation to a school is rare, it does happen. A private individual, business, or organization can donate a parcel of land to a school.
Things to Consider When Acquiring or Adding Land
- A land ownership issue to consider when acquiring or changing status of School Forest land is an easement. An easement is the granting of rights for access to land to satisfy an interest. A School Forest may need to get an easement or give one to another interest. Easements are typically granted for purposes of right-of-way, right of entry, and right to water. For example, a public snowmobile or hiking trail might be located adjacent to a School Forest and the city or county might request an easement across School Forest land for citizens to access the trail. Or a School Forest site might have the best entry point by crossing a private individual's land, and thus an easement is necessary. Easements are handled either at the time of land acquisition or by the school district superintendent or lawyer after land acquisition. The School Forest landowner is the ultimate decision maker on an easement. If you have questions about easements, contact your local DNR forester, School Forest Program Manager, or school district legal representative.
- Transportation issues should be considered prior to acquiring a School Forest if it is not located adjacent to the school grounds. This includes safety and fiscal considerations if buses must be utilized to transport students to the School Forest site.
Accessibility to All Students
- Distance to site, difficulty of terrain, and safety issues should be considered. If compliance with the American's with Disabilities Act (ADA) is a concern, contact your school's attorney and ADA specialist for clarification. There are many things that can be done to make School Forests accessible to everyone. Contact the School Forest Program Manager Manager for ideas.
Traditional Use of Land
- Find out if your School Forest land has traditionally been used for hunting, trapping, snowmobiling, All-Terrain Vehicle (ATV) use, horseback riding, or access to another area. These uses may conflict with the intended use of a School Forest, and impact the activities you will be able to safely conduct there. For additional information, consult the "Legal Issues: Restricted Use of School Forest Lands". You may also wish to contact the School Forest Program Manager and your local DNR conservation officer.
School Maintenance Staff
- Some School Forest sites are located adjacent to the school grounds and are able to utilize school maintenance staff to support School Forest land management. It is crucial to engage school maintenance staff early in the development of the School Forest and to keep them actively involved in School Forest activities. Their support can be a big benefit if they are engaged and feel some ownership in School Forest projects. Keep communication open and respect each other's ideas and needs. Consider inviting a member of the school maintenance staff to be on your School Forest Committee to keep communication open and encourage their involvement and ownership in the site.