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Learn to care for your woodlands
About 40 percent of Minnesota's woodlands are privately owned. Caring for our forests is often the job of private landowners.
Our forestry programs offer information and learning opportunities for anyone interested in protecting and improving their woodlands.
Managing different forest types in Minnesota
Below, we list forests by species, but there are many ways to classify and describe forest types.
For example, if you’re an advanced woodland owner or professional, you may also want to familiarize yourself with the Ecological Classification System from the Minnesota Department of Natural Resources. The system describes and maps progressively smaller areas of Minnesota's four biomes or ecological provinces.
Knowing the tree species present in your woods is important in order to make proper management decisions.
A woodland stewardship plan from the Minnesota DNR can help you identify and achieve goals for your land.
Woodland Stewardship: A Practical Guide for Midwestern Landowners, 3rd Edition provides information for woodland owners interested in identifying goals for their property and working with a professional forester to choose the best management practices. The book is also available in print.
Woodland Stewardship Plans are a specific kind of woodland management plan managed through the Minnesota Department of Natural Resources (DNR). Plans are always prepared by a natural resource professional in your local area.
A Minnesota DNR Woodland Stewardship Plan is unique to your woods, helping you identify what's in your woods, how to improve the health and beauty of your woods, and when to take action.
Woodland owners with 20 to 5,000 acres, with at least 10 acres that have or will have trees, are eligible.
What you'll receive
Unlike some management plans, a Woodland Stewardship Plan provides a comprehensive overview of your land. This includes:
- An aerial photo.
- A map of the forest cover types and plant communities.
- Written information about each of the cover types and plant communities found on your land.
- Specific recommendations to help you achieve your stated goals. These aren’t binding, but most landowners find them to be a useful guide in their forest management activities.
Sign up for a plan or learn more by contacting your nearest Minnesota DNR Forestry office.
Foresters trained in woodland stewardship from the DNR, public and private organizations can write your plan. This list of approved Minnesota stewardship plan preparers (PDF) shows natural resource professionals who are approved to write Woodland Stewardship Plans in Minnesota.
These public and private foresters can also advise on woodland care and management, make timber estimates and help you sell your timber.
Cost-share funds are also available for woodland improvement projects. These options can have a big impact on your bottom line.
Managing your woods
Get the most out of your forest by improving its health and harvesting in a way that achieves woodland goals.
Silvicultural systems are described by how managers harvest and regenerate trees, from individually cutting some trees (single-tree selection) to cutting all the trees at once (clear-cutting).
Over the life of a stand, woodland owners and managers take steps to establish, grow, enhance and harvest their forests. The specific treatments or methods they use will depend on which silvicultural system they select.
Woodland owners and managers should work with professionals to select the best silvicultural system for their forest.
Intermediate treatments and woodland stand improvement are done after trees have been established or regenerated, but before final harvest. They are designed to improve the stand’s ability to grow, while enhancing its vigor, value and quality. Intermediate treatments include:
When selling your timber, you will want to get the best offer while meeting woodland goals. Foresters can help along the way, from planning and marketing to harvests and making the sale.
Sampling and measuring timber
There are two ways to estimate how much timber you have. You can individually evaluate each tree, or set up sample plots and use them to estimate overall volume.
By measuring timber, you can better understand your woodland’s status and get critical information that can shape management plans and the treatments you use.
Contract for Minnesota timber harvests
Contracts protect woodland owners and buyers during timber sales and harvest operations.
View a sample Minnesota timber harvest contract (PDF). This sample document is for educational use only. Use it as a starting point for your own contract, but we encourage you to contact an attorney for help designing a timber sale contract that meets your specific needs.
Goods from your woods
Minnesota forests offer more than timber. You can produce nuts and fruit, make maple syrup or gather wild plants for food or decorations.
If you’re new to harvesting and gathering forest products, the Minnesota Harvester Handbook is an excellent place to start. It covers more than 20 goods beyond timber, from the familiar to the unusual. Natural resources such as maple syrup, walleye and morel mushrooms, contribute to Minnesota's social fabric and well-being by supporting our livelihoods and shared identities.
What’s in the handbook?
The Minnesota Harvester Handbook was developed by University of Minnesota Extension with the help of a broad network of contributors. It demonstrates the breadth and diversity of useful natural resources found in and around the state’s woodlands and forests with year-round potential for harvesting and gathering.
Products and resources by harvesting season:
- Maple syrup
- Fiddlehead fern
- Yellow morel
- Birch bark
- Oyster mushroom
- King bolete mushroom
- Sweet tooth mushroom
- Lobster mushroom
- Chicken-of-the-woods mushroom
- Chanterelle mushroom
- Wild rice
- Balsam boughs
- Hen-of-the-woods mushroom
- Princess pine
- Red osier dogwood
- Tree cones and seeds
- Small diameter wood
- Character wood