Minnesota state land portfolio

Minnesota has approximately 51 million acres of land within its borders:

  • 5.6 million acres (11%) are state-owned, DNR managed lands
  • 3.8 million acres (7%) are federally owned lands
  • 2.8 million acres (6%) are state-owned, county-administered tax-forfeited lands
  • 0.7 million acres (2%) are tribal owned lands
  • 0.3 million acres (1%) are county owned lands

More than 70% of the lands in Minnesota are privately owned.

The majority of DNR-administered lands are located in the northern part of the state. Historically, wetlands and remote areas in the northern part of the state were more likely to stay in or revert to state ownership because those lands were considered less valuable than agricultural lands in the southern part of the state.

Between 1837 and 1867, Ojibwe and Dakota people negotiated government to government treaties with the United States that ceded most of the land that is now Minnesota. For the federal government, these treaties ceded land, and for the American Indian people these treaties retained their sovereignty as nations and rights to resources of the lands.

Today, the State of Minnesota shares geography with eleven Tribal Nations — four Dakota communities in the southern part of the state and seven Ojibwe communities in the northern part – representing about 2% of the state's lands. The Dakota and Ojibwe people hold this land sacred because it is tied to their cultural, spiritual, and economic practices.

Current trends

During the last five years:

  • Statewide, DNR's land portfolio has changed by less than one tenth of a percent.
  • On average, the DNR acquires about 9,000 acres of land per year, statewide.
    • Sixty-nine percent (69%) of acquisitions were adjacent to existing DNR complexes, which increases land access, management efficiency, and conservation impact.
    • 65% of DNR's land acquisitions occurred in counties where 5% or less of the land is publicly owned.
  • On average, the DNR sells 508 acres of land per year, statewide.
  • The DNR exchanged 773 acres out of state ownership for 734 acres received into state ownership (land exchanges are value for value, within statutory parameters, not acre for acre).

School Trust DNR managed lands

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  • Forty-five percent of state lands are school trust lands in northern Minnesota. During the mid-1800s, the U.S. Congress granted lands to the state to benefit school districts in the state.
  • School trust lands make up five percent (5%) of Minnesota's land area, and originally comprised eight million acres distributed across the state.
  • By the early 20th century, the more marketable lands in the southern part of the state were sold with proceeds deposited in the Permanent School Fund (PSF). The 2.5 million remaining acres are located primarily in northeastern Minnesota.
  • Income from school trust lands, generated primarily by mineral royalties, timber and land sales, is deposited in the PSF. Interest and dividends generated by the PSF's principal are used to support the annual budgets of all school districts in the state.
  • In FY 2022, the PSF will distribute $36 million to school districts in the state.

Consolidated Conservation Area DNR managed lands

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  • Twenty-eight percent (1.55 million acres) of state lands are consolidated-conservation (con-con) lands. These lands make up three percent (3%) of Minnesota's land area.
  • In the late 1800s, many ditches were built by local drainage districts in northern Minnesota in an attempt to convert wetlands to productive agricultural lands. The lands did not become productive and in the 1920s and 1930s, the projects failed to meet their financial obligations.
  • Counties assumed responsibility for the projects' delinquent debt, but also experienced difficulty repaying it to the state. To make good on the debt, the counties transferred ownership of the lands to the state.
  • DNR continues to manage con-con lands today. Any income generated from DNR management on these lands is split evenly with the counties.
  • Con-con lands are located in seven counties: Aitkin, Beltrami, Koochiching, Lake of the Woods, Mahnomen, Marshall and Roseau.

Acquired DNR managed lands

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Twenty-seven percent (1.49 million acres) of state lands were acquired to meet natural resource goals. Lands are acquired through purchase, county board action, gift, condemnation at the sellers request, or transfer of custodial control.

  • Acquired lands make up three percent (3%) of Minnesota's total land area, and are spread across the state. Acquired lands represent the diversity of Minnesota's natural resources.
  • The DNR engages in acquisition to find ways to improve conservation, recreation, and economic opportunities for the state.
  • The DNR only purchases land from willing sellers. Additionally, non-profit land trust organizations can choose to purchase lands and then gift property to the state.
  • There are also acquired lands that revert to the state when the person who died has no heirs.

Tax Forfeited county managed lands

  • The state owns 2.83 million additional acres of county-managed tax forfeited lands. These lands came into state ownership through forfeiture for non-payment of the general property tax and are managed by the county where they are located. They are 5.5% of Minnesota's total land area.
  • The DNR has oversight and approvals for some timber sale, certain leasing activities and some sales of the land, but most management is done by the county where the land is located.
  • The title to the lands is held by the state in trust for the respective taxing districts.
  • For the most accurate ownership maps and data regarding tax forfeited lands, please contact counties directly.

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