Manage the state's land holdings
The DNR manages 5.6 million acres of state land on behalf of the citizens of Minnesota and is continually working to improve its land portfolio. The DNR regularly evaluates the state's land holdings and looks for cost-efficient ways to increase environmental benefits, recreational opportunities, and economic growth for the state.
The DNR's Division of Lands and Minerals partners with the agency's land-managing divisions to complete important land transactions, including acquisitions, sales, and exchanges. The DNR uses the department's Strategic Land Asset Management (SLAM) Program in consultation with local government officials and conservation partners to:
- Hold and manage lands that meet public recreation or conservation needs
- Exchange lands with partners to consolidate and reduce the number of isolated parcels
- Sell when they no longer meet conservation or recreation purposes and reinvest the income in acquiring better lands
- Purchase new lands from willing sellers that meet state land-management goals
Strategic and collaborative land asset management
In consultation with DNR staff and department data, local governments, and nonprofit partners, the DNR regularly evaluates the state's land holdings and uses land acquisitions, exchanges, and sales to improve nature conservation efforts, increase recreational space, and grow the state's outdoor economy. Active management of our land asset portfolio is one of the ways the DNR meets its responsibility to the public and contributes to Minnesota's exceptional quality of life.
In collaboration with conservation partners and local governments, DNR acquires land to protect critical wildlife habitat and other natural resources from the risk of development. Strategic land acquisitions also help provide a variety of recreational, economical, and environmental opportunities for the state.
Goals for strategic land acquisitions
The DNR makes acquisition decisions using department-wide SLAM acquisition goals and divisional and programmatic goals for Forestry, Parks and Trails, Fish and Wildlife, Ecological and Water Resources. The DNR's land acquisition goals are to:
- Increase close-to-home outdoor recreation opportunities
- Protect significant and/or rare natural resources
- Restore and protect water resources
- Mitigate and adapt to climate change
- Expand access to existing land holdings
- Consolidate land ownership, creating larger, contiguous blocks of DNR lands
Local government and nonprofit partnerships
The DNR has a capable community of nonprofit and conservation organizations to assist the department with land acquisition. When we coordinate acquisitions together, Minnesota can be a leader in conservation goals, particularly around shared landscape management and strategic plans.
A key element of the DNR's SLAM program is transparency. The DNR informs local government and tribal partners of the department's interest in a parcel. It is important for local governments to know if the land manager will be a conservation organization or the DNR. Many times, conservation organizations provide the initial capacity and expertise to acquire lands, while the DNR has the resources to maintain the lands for the long-term.
Funding for strategic land acquisition
The majority of the funding that the DNR uses for land acquisition is appropriated for that purpose by the Minnesota legislature and signed into law by the governor. Funding sources include:
- Reinvest in Minnesota (RIM) Critical Habitat program, funded with proceeds from the Critical Habitat license plate
- General obligation bonds, supported by general fund dollars
- Environment and Natural Resources Trust Fund, funded with proceeds from the state lottery and investment income
- Outdoor Heritage Fund, funded with proceeds from a constitutionally-dedicated statewide sales
- Federal funds
Quick Fact: The DNR has to say “no” to most landowners who offer to sell or donate land for conservation purposes. In 2020, The DNR declined 87 percent of the inquiries it received from landowners in southern Minnesota, because most parcels do not meet enough of DNR's strategic goals.
Land exchanges improve the DNR's resource management by:
- Reducing boundaries
- Consolidating land ownership
- Creating higher-quality habitat and recreational lands
These maps illustrate how land exchanges between counties and the state could help reduce the number of isolated parcels, simplify boundaries, and create larger blocks of land to allow for improved habitat and timber management.
The DNR completes an average of 29 sales annually. DNR sells land when:
- A parcel no longer meets the original conservation or recreation purpose for which it was intended
- Proceeds from a sale of a parcel of lower conservation quality will fund the purchase of a higher-quality parcel
- The sale resolves land management issues
The DNR also sells School Trust Lands to meet its fiduciary responsibilities to the state's School Trust Fund. For more information, please see the Land sale webpage.
Data driven decision-making
The DNR uses data to determine whether a parcel meets each SLAM goal. For example, geographic maps with location data helps determine whether an acquisition protects a critical water resource or is adjacent to DNR-administered lands. Additionally, acquisition coordinators use transaction-specific details to make decisions. For example, the DNR will acquire land if the parcel is important for the department's natural conservation goals.
The department tracks two metrics to measure the progress of land management goals.
Metric #1 Proposed acquisitions (including easements) that meet three or more SLAM goals
This metric helps us understand if the DNR’s acquisitions are adding value to the state's public land portfolio. The DNR strives to have about 80 percent of the department’s acquisitions meeting three or more SLAM goals.
Metric #2 Ratio of sales parcels offered to sales parcels sold
This metric helps us understand the extent to which our sales program is operating efficiently. The higher the percentage of parcels that are offered that sell, the more we know the parcels we offer are of interest to the public and are worth the upfront investment made to get them ready for sale. DNR's goal is to sell 70% of offered parcels. In FY 2022, DNR transitioned to using an online land sale platform that has helped increased the average percent of offered parcels that are sold from 73% to 90%. DNR also anticipates that this will increase the overall efficiency and return on investment of its annual land sales.
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