Skip to content
  • What is Forest Stewardship?
  • SWCD Activities
  • Forest Planning
  • Stewardship Projects
  • Helpful Resources
  • Local Conservation Contacts

WHAT IS FOREST STEWARDSHIP?

The human relationship with the natural world is ancient, complex, and difficult to accurately define. But one thing remains the same, we are as dependent on Earth’s resources now as we ever were. Also true for many of us is a more non-tangible need to be close to the land or to maintain a connection to the environment, a  sense of place. According to survey data from the University of Minnesota and Minnesota DNR this is especially true for folks who choose to own rural properties in the forested areas of Minnesota. For many of these landowners, their bond with the land is a relationship as close as any human friendship, and their dedication to preserving the natural beauty and ecological functions that make their land a benefit to neighboring properties, watersheds, and the surrounding landscape as a whole is what makes a Forest Steward. Forest stewardship is not simply owning, but also a promise to the next generation that you will care for the land in a way that will maintain and improve your portion of the Minnesota forest for the future. In turn, practicing forest stewards are rewarded with a deep knowledge of the natural mechanisms that make a forest function and a better understanding of how to sustainably harvest resources from it.

That’s where we can help. Minnesota has one of the most engaging and valuable private landowner forest stewardship programs in the country. This, paired with a broad network of professional conservationists dedicated to assisting landowners to achieve their property goals, makes it a straightforward and worthwhile investment.

The first step is making a plan. This process is easy to initiate thanks to the MN DNR’s Forest Stewardship Planning program. See the description of this program and how we can help make it happen on our “Forest Planning” tab within this page.

LITTLE FORK NON-INDUSTRIAL PRIVATE FORESTLAND PROJECT

Across Minnesota’s water-rich forested regions, a series of collaborative projects were developed by the six regional landscape committees of the Minnesota Forest Resources Council (MFRC), in partnership with the Minnesota Department of Natural Resources Division of Forestry.

Funded by a US Forest Service State & Private Forestry Landscape Scale Restoration grant, with matching contributions by local and state partners, each committee designed their project to address sustainable forest resource concerns in their priority areas.

Here is a look at the Northern Landscape Committee’s Little Fork Headwaters Non-Industrial Private Forestland (NIPF) Project.

NIPF Pilot Project Phase 2 - Wrap Up

Through MN DNR Forestry, the Koochiching SWCD is currently wrapping up final tasks on the NIPF Pilot Project Phase 2 contract. The scope of work was developed to build additional data tracking and coordination between SWCD forestry, the Board of Soil & Water Resources (BWSR), and MN DNR private forest management programs.

Northern Landscape Committee

The Minnesota Forest Resource Council (MFRC) was established by the Minnesota State Legislature in 1995 to “develop recommendations to the Governor and to federal, state, county and local governments with respect to policies that result in sustainable management of forests in the state.”

Landscape Stewardship Planning

Loons, Lunkers and Logs is a collaborative project between the SWCD, Board of Soil and Water Resources and MN DNR Forestry Division to support local conservation work encouraging sustainable forest management and forest protection on private lands.

Minnesota’s forests are vast and species rich. From the pine
ringed lakes of the eastern boreal forests to the grassy aspen parklands in the
west, opportunities to appreciate the woods and wildlife that call the state
home abound. Minnesotan’s dedication and pride in these landscapes shows
through and through. Perhaps surprisingly given the amount of wilderness
available for public access, the largest landowner group in the state are
family woodland owners with 33%, or an estimated 5.9 million acres of Minnesota
forestland.  

Just as Minnesota’s public lands are managed for different
land use values, each family forest is used in different ways and every
landowner has their own land management priorities.

The Forest Stewardship Planning program offers private woodland
owners a unique opportunity to use professional forestry advice to achieve
their custom property goals on their own lands.
Administered through the Minnesota Department of Natural Resources
Forestry Division (MNDNR), the program creates a template for the development
of a 10-year management plan based on the landowner’s goals and advised by
certified professional foresters. Some management goals may include the
encouragement of specific wildlife or plant species, assessments of forest
health, or timber value estimates. With these specific directives and any
historical context, the landowner may want to share, the forester will then
conduct fieldwork to define and collect forest data, create custom maps using Global
Information System (GIS) mapping, and write a 10-year management strategy to
achieve those goals.

In addition to the advantages of professional forestry
guidance, landowners participating in the Forest Stewardship Planning program can
also receive help designing projects such as tree planting, wildlife habitat
plantings, or invasive species control and applying for cost-share to help pay
for these projects when available. Forests with a registered and current plan
are also eligible for enrollment in incentive programs like the Sustainable Forest
Initiative Act (SFIA) or 2C Managed Forest Tax Classification.  

If you’re interested in developing a Forest Stewardship Plan
for your property or would like more information, Koochiching Soil and Water
Conservation district can help. Give us a call at 218-283-6742.

There are countless projects that a forest steward may use to improve, maintain, or protect their land. Benefits or goals for these projects can include wildlife habitat improvements, increased timber value, additional plant diversity, climate change or forest health resiliency, etc… Just as every property is unique, so will be every project. The best way to develop customized projects that take into account the species composition, soils, topography, historical land use, and landowner goals of your property is through a Forest Stewardship Plan designed for this purpose (see the Forest Planning tab for more information).  Described below are a few of the most common projects that landowners pursue to improve the natural resources and build conservation equity on their lands. 

Tree Planting

Photo Credit: MN Historical Society

Simple and rewarding, tree planting has a storied past in Minnesota. From 1933 to 1942 the Civilian Conservation Corp (CCC) crews operating from camps located in forests across the state, planted 124 million new trees in an effort to improve soil health, beautify the landscape, and reforest areas recuperating from the logging booms that occurred around the beginning of the 20th century. State, federal, county, tribal, and industrial forestry departments continually use strategic tree planting to reforest and add species diversity to the lands they manage. Likewise, private forest landowners can improve and earn satisfaction watching the trees they plant and tend grow into a forest that will stand for generations as a testament to their conservation ethics.

Tree plantings can be designed to accomplish many goals such as windbreaks or visual screens, shoreline or bank stabilization, carbon sequestration, timber income generation, species diversity, wildlife food or habitat improvements. They can be designed for open lands like fields or in mature forests in projects like “under-plantings”. For the best chances of success, a customized tree planting plan should be developed based on the site and landowner’s goals, but a few general rules dictate the majority of tree plantings.

  1. Select species adapted to the planting site’s soils, light availability, water abundance, and climate.
  2. Native species and regional seed stock are better than non-native seedlings.
  3. Site preparation, such as brush or grass control may be necessary for seedling success.
  4. Deer, hare-rabbit, and/or rodent protection may be necessary for seedling survival.
  5. Follow-up treatments such as pruning or stand thinning may improve or protect the planted trees from health or disease concerns as they age.

Timber Harvest

Minnesota Logger Education Program: Logger Directory

University of Minnesota Extension: Selling Timber-Step By Step

Minnesota Forest Resource Council (MFRC): Forestry Best Management Practices

Conservation Project Cost-Share

Minnesota Department of Natural Resources (MNDNR):  Private Forest Management (PFM)

Natural Resource Conservation Service (NRCS): Conservation Stewardship Program (CSP)

Natural Resource Conservation Service (NRCS): Environmental Quality Incentives Program (EQIP)

Native Plant/Pollinator Distributors

Minnesota Native Landscapes

Prairie Restorations

Prairie Moon Nursery

Forest Health and Landscape

MN DNR Annual Forest Insect and Disease News

My MN Woods, Forest Stewardship for Private Landowners – UMN Extension

Sustainable Forest Education Cooperative, Forestry Education and Training 

Climate Change Atlas, Regional Landscape Climate Change Effects Data

Web Soil Survey, Soil Type and Productivity Interactive Map

Minnesota Women’s Woodland Network, Forest Stewardship for Women Landowners

Minnesota Forestry Association, Private Forestland Management Guidance

JAMES AASEN

Forest Resource Specialist
218-283-6742
james.aasen@co.koochiching.mn.us

BEN WEST

Cooperative Forestry Management Forester
218-888-9058
benjaminwest@state.mn.us

WILL LEE

Soil Conservationist
218-634-2757 ext. 110
WilliamT.Lee@usda.gov

CORRYN TRASK

Resource Conservationist
218-634-1842 ext. 4
corryn.trask@mn.nacdnet.net

LAUREN SOERGEL

District Forester
218-288-6146
lauren@nslswcd.org