There are no size, acreage, or tree requirements to be in the School Forest Program. The land needs to match the teaching goals of your school—that may mean prairie, forest, wetland, the woodlot down the street, or your schoolyard. Any natural space can be used as an outdoor classroom.
To find out more about any of the options below, contact the School Forest Program staff.
School-owned or purchased
Existing land owned by the school district can be designated as a school forest. Or the school district may purchase land for the purpose of establishing and maintaining a school forest.
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 because the 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.
When entering into a partnership, either a Joint Powers Agreement (with government entities) or a Management Agreement (with private landowner) is needed. Contact the School Forest Program staff, to ensure a proper agreement is created.
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.
Consider these factors as you identify land for your future school forest.
An easement grants rights for access to land to satisfy an interest. Easements are typically granted for purposes of right-of-way, right of entry, or right to water. For example, the city or county might request an easement across school forest land to allow people to access a public snowmobile trail. Or a school may need an easement to cross private property to safely access their school forest.
Easements can be addressed either before or after acquiring land. The school district superintendent or lawyer typically handles easements. Whomever owns the land retains the right to grant an easement. If you have questions, contact your local DNR forester, School Forest Program staff, or school district legal representative.
Consider how (walking/bussing) students will get to your forest and how long it takes to get there. Consider safety and cost.
Accessibility to all students
Consider the distance to site, difficulty of terrain, and safety. Contact your school's attorney and ADA specialist for clarification. School Forests can be made accessible to everyone. Contact the School Forest Program staff for ideas.
Traditional use of land
Consider how people have used the land in the past and how they may want to continue using the land. Is the communities already using the land for hunting, trapping, snowmobiling, All-Terrain Vehicle (ATV) use, horseback riding, dog-walking, or accessing another area? If any use conflicts with your intended school forest arise, consult the Safety and Legal web pages. You may also wish to contact the School Forest Program staff and your local DNR conservation officer.
Who can maintain the land?
Can district maintenance staff take care of a school forest on school property? Will city staff maintain trails? It is crucial to engage maintenance staff early and keep them actively involved in school forest activities. Their support can benefit your site if they are engaged and feel some ownership.
Keep communication open and respect each other's ideas and needs. Consider inviting a maintenance staff member to be on your School Forest Committee.