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Minnesota native white pine forest

The Great Northwoods of Minnesota!

Forests are a proven resource and a strong value to the economy, here in the Headwaters region. We've learned how to manage sustainable harvests to ensure a forest legacy is maintained for generations to come. But to focus only on the economic value of timber would be like the old saying goes, “Not seeing the forest for the trees.”


We know that woodlands are also a primary contributor to many of our other industries, in ways people never imagined. Did you know our fishing, hunting, and tourism economy is tied to the health of our forests? Without our thriving forests our water quality would suffer, which would impact fishing and tourism in the region. Also our forests provide habitat for all kinds of game animals like deer, bear, grouse, etc... Imagine what our local economy would look like if any of these industries were to suffer!

Private Forest Management

Proper forest management not only benefits the landowner, but stacks benefits for their neighbors, the region, and the watershed. For example a healthy forest will prevent soil erosion, provide habitat, provide income, contribute to water quality, improve air quality, and add to the beauty of the region. Without woodlands each of these aspects suffer.

Forests and fishing are connected

Minnesota's fishing legacy is a prime example of forest's effect on our way of life. Minnesota has long been known as a destination for fisherman. For as long as we can remember our family photos have boasted stringers full of lunkers!


"We need to recognize that our lakes teeming with fish are partially a result of our forests teeming with trees."

As lakeshore is changed and as trees are removed, we are also seeing increased storm water runoff, sediment displacement, nutrient overloads from yard fertilizers, and more. These factors are playing a role in algae blooms, decreased oxygen levels in lakes, and a host of other environmental factors that are consequently effecting our fish populations.


Healthy forests equal strong fisheries. Strong fisheries mean big dollars for our recreational fishing industry, resort owners, and prospective cabin buyers.

How forests protect our water quality

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Woodlands are giant water filters

Forests serve as a giant natural sponge, soaking up large amounts of storm water runoff. Woodlands also filter out contaminants from excess storm water. The root system and vegetative base of woodlands protect both groundwater and surface water like lakes and rivers.

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Land use affects water quality

The “Disturbance” of land has an affect on its ability to slow down and filter storm water runoff. As woodlands are developed or converted to crop or pasture lands the soil looses its ability to retain and filter water. Most of the excess storm water runs directly into waterways without slowing down or being filtered. The result is excess contaminants and sediment in our waters.

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The tipping point for water quality

Studies show that when more than 25%of the forest within a watershed is converted to other land uses, the water quality, begins to decline. Much of the decline is due to greater amounts of phosphorus entering the water.


Because of water quality decline at 25% land disturbance, the protection goals for a watershed are then 75%. If this forest land cover percentage can be maintained, a certain quality of water can usually be reached.

Because private woodlands provide public benefits, incentives & resources are available to private forest landowners.

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Private forested lands are part of a larger landscape called a watershed. The choices woodland property owners make have an impact on the health and beauty of the region. Forested property owners have the ability to help restore natural balance to their watershed through well funded woodland management programs.


Some think leaving nature completely untouched is best for the forest, but proper management of woodlands is required to strengthen the natural foundation of a forest; in turn benefiting the economic, recreational and natural value of the land. 


Furthermore, Most of the volunteer forest management programs still allow you to harvest timber from your property!

It starts with a plan

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A Forest Stewardship Plan is the key to cost-share funds & tax-relief incentives!


The DNR’s Forest Stewardship Program helps woodland landowners create and use voluntary management plans for their property.


A forest stewardship Plan is a custom plan that describes your personal goals, unique forest resources, and suggested management activities to ensure long-term economic, ecological, and social benefits.


Your local SWCD can help with a host of forest management projects. But it starts with writing your certified Forest Stewardship Plan.

A Forest Stewardship Plan could grant you access to these and other cost-share funds and tax-relief incentives:

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Tree farm/Tree Planting programs

Reforestation and afforestation programs


Timber harvest management

Timber stand improvement and timber harvest management programs


Sustainable Forest Incentive Act 

Property owners can receive dollars for qualifying forest land greater than 20 acres in the SFIA program


Conservation Easements

Allows a landowner to manage and harvest timber, but places development restrictions on the property.


Donated/Acquired Land

Landowners of critical habitat forests can optto sell parcels to the DNR. Forest acquisition funds such as the Lessard-Sams Outdoor Heritage Fund exist for these purposes.