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.
- Land Options
To find out more about any of the options below, contact the School Forest Staff.
Purchased or School Owned
- Land can be purchased by the school district for the purpose of establishing and maintaining a School Forest. Existing land owned by the school district can be designated 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, 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.
- 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 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.
- Land Considerations
There are a variety of considerations before designating a new School Forest.
- An easement is a land ownership issue to consider when acquiring or changing status of School Forest land. An easement grants 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 Staff, or school district legal representative.
- Consider transportation issues prior to designating a School Forest located far from the school grounds. If buses must be used, think about safety and cost.
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, dog-walking, 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 Safety and Legal web pages. You may also wish to contact the School Forest Staff 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.
- What you need for the School Forest application
If you already have land there are a few things to start working on. First, contact the School Forest Staff. They'll be able to give you more detailed information on what you'll need for your application.
Here are the main requirements:
Copy of the Deed:
The deed legally describes the area of land that is owned. Your superintendent should have this if its school owned land, but if not, contact the county recorder's office. There is usually a small fee for the copy. However, it's important for administrators to understand what area of land the school is liable for.
This can be done in a few ways so it's important to contact the School Forest Staff for further information on how to proceed with this step. It needs to be noted correctly in all files for future reference.
There are many tools that can help create a map or you may already have one on hand. It can be hand drawn, a plat map (if your School Forest is an entire parcel), or you can use a Google map using drawing tools to create the perimeter. See below for a few examples.