Conservation Almanac




Minnesota Profile of State Programs and Policy Framework

Highlighted Local Programs


Highlighted State Programs


State Policy Framework



To avoid double counting acres where multiple programs contributed to the acquisition of a single parcel, the acreage is only aggregated under the program that provided the majority of funding. For example, if the table below displays a dollar amount greater than $0 for a given year but shows 0 acres, the program was not the primary contributor for any parcels in that year. As a result, a prolific program may show very low acreage figures on this page. To see customized program information please visit the map viewer tab or contact the Conservation Almanac Team.

Highlighted Local Programs

No county-level conservation finance measures have been approved by voters in Minnesota. For more information on municipal measures in the state, visit

Highlighted State Programs

Minnesota Department of Natural Resources

The Department of Natural Resources uses state capital bond funds, federal grants, licenses, fees, private donations, Environment and Natural Resource Trust Fund proceeds, and general fund allocations to acquire land and conservation easements for Aquatic Management Areas, Scientific and Natural Areas, State Parks, Wildlife Management Areas, Native Prairie Bank, State Recreation Areas, State Forests, Forest Legacy conservation easements, State Trails, and Water Access.

The Department of Natural Resources administers four grants programs for land acquisition by local governments to implement the State Comprehensive Outdoor Recreation Plan (SCORP). Private organizations are not eligible. Revenue has been provided through state bonding, Minnesota Environment and Natural Resources Trust Fund proceeds, Future Resources Fund, and the federal Land and Water Conservation Fund.

2005 240,022.2 $12,683,760
2004 6,719.4 $8,730,395
2003 4,864.4 $4,079,917
2002 4,542.1 $6,533,126
2001 8,243.9 $7,931,467
2000 12,886.4 $7,589,308
1999 6,787.2 $5,700,465
1998 6,899.5 $7,622,359
Total290,965.1 $60,870,797

Local Grants Program

1) Regional Park Grants
To accelerate protection and development of larger, regionally significant parks outside the Twin Cities metropolitan area, the legislature expanded the outdoor recreation program, set aside $500,000 in bonding in 2000, and decreased the non-state match to 40%. The eligible project types are similar to outdoor recreation grants, but tend to be larger.

2) Outdoor Recreation Grants
The program’s purpose is to increase and enhance outdoor recreation facilities in partnership with local governments. Projects funded through this program include park acquisition and/or development/redevelopment, including internal park trails, picnic shelters, playgrounds, athletic facilities, boat accesses, fishing piers, swimming beaches and campgrounds. A 50% non-state match is required.

3) Natural and Scenic Area Grants
The Natural and Scenic Areas Program provides 50% matching grants to local governments, including school districts, to increase, protect and enhance natural and scenic areas statewide.

4) Remediation Fund Grants
These land conservation grants were targeted to communities in watersheds with a history of pollution. Funding originated from the Minnesota Pollution Control Agency legal and insurance settlements.

Metropolitan Council

The Metropolitan Council, the planning agency serving the Twin Cities seven-county metropolitan area, works with ten regional park implementing agencies – six counties, two cities, and two park districts - to award grants to finance land acquisition and development of the parks system, among other essential regional services. The Metro Parks and Open Space Commission, with seven appointed citizen members, recommends policies and funding allocations to the full council. Some grants for land acquisition only partially finance the acquisition cost. Funds for Council grants include a combination of regional bonds issued by the Council, state bonds, user fees for wastewater treatment and transit service, a seven-county property tax, and interest earnings.**

The Metropolitan Council has authority to use part of its levy for up to $40M for land protection. It typically does not bond to its full capacity because as a policy, it requires a 60% match from other sources including state bonding (roughly $4M/year for 10-year average), Environment and Natural Resources Trust Fund, and local sources, and frequently the legislature does not provide the full match or the Met Council decides not to increase its levy to use the full amount. In addition to the Capital Improvement Program, the Met Council has created an emergency acquisition category for land acquisition projects bringing 60% non-regional funds, which can later be reimbursed in part with state match. This fund has received less than $2M in a biennium.

Reinvest in Minnesota Reserve Program

Initiated in 1986, the Reinvest in Minnesota (RIM) Reserve Program is one of the first of its kind in the country, and it remains the primary land acquisition program for state-held conservation easements in Minnesota. It is managed by the Minnesota Board of Water and Soil Resources (BWSR), with the mission to protect and improve water quality, reduce soil erosion, and enhance fish and wildlife habitat. The majority of funding is provided through the sale of state bonds, with smaller amounts from state lottery proceeds and federal North American Wetland Conservation Act (NAWCA) grants through the US Fish and Wildlife Service.

BWSR acquires permanent easements, on behalf of the state, to protect and manage critical natural resources. The landowners continue to own the underlying fee, and are paid a percentage of the assessed value on their land. Public access is not required on these lands. After the land is enrolled, it is managed under a conservation plan, which generally includes wetland restoration, native grass plantings, and tree plantings. RIM Reserve is implemented in cooperation with county Soil and Water Conservation Districts, the USDA's Farm Service Agency, the Natural Resources Conservation Service, non-profit conservation groups, and other state and federal agencies.

The state Board of Water and Soil Resources also uses state capital bond funds and federal grants to protect land, largely for surface water quality improvement. The agency distributes funding to county soil and water conservation districts and watershed organizations to create, restore or protect wetlands and protect or restore lake and stream shorelines.

Minnesota Future Resources Fund

The Minnesota Future Resources Fund used cigarette tax revenue to fund natural resource conservation, including land acquisition, though the primary focus was park and trail development. Although the funding was shifted to other purposes in 2003, the authority for the program remains in statute.

2001 16.4 $1,440,000
Total16.4 $1,440,000

Minnesota Environment and Natural Resources Trust Fund

The Minnesota Environment and Natural Resources Trust Fund (ENRTF) was created by a voter-approved constitutional amendment in 1988, with the purpose of providing a long-term, stable source of funding for activities that protect, conserve, preserve, and enhance Minnesota's "air, water, land, fish, wildlife, and other natural resources" for the benefit of current citizens and future generations. The program, funded by Minnesota State Lottery proceeds and investment income, is overseen by the Legislative Citizen Commission on Minnesota Resources (LCCMR), which makes annual funding recommendations to the legislature.

Eligibility is broad; grantees have included private and public organizations and academic institutions. Once the LCCMR makes its recommendations, two of its members, one from the House and one from the Senate, serve as chief authors of the bill. At any point in the traditional bill hearing and approval process, amendments to the bill can be introduced and potentially adopted (by majority vote). After legislative approval, the governor may line-item veto projects, similar to capital investment or other funding bills.

Metro Greenways Program

The Metro Greenways program, established by 1998 Legislative action, aims to protect, restore, connect and manage a metro-wide network of regionally and locally significant natural areas and open spaces interconnected by ecological corridors in the Twin Cities Metropolitan Area and adjacent counties. This land network improves water quality and ecosystem functions, sustains ecological diversity, and provides additional wildlife habitat. The Department of Natural Resources administers the Metro Greenways program with advice from an advisory group. Funding comes from a combination of state bonding and the Environmental and Natural Resources Trust Fund. The program partners with local, state, federal and private agencies and funding sources to protect significant natural areas from unplanned growth. Eligibility is broader than other state grant programs, with private entities and state agencies potential conservation partners. In addition, program staff also provide technical help to local governments and work with communities to inventory natural resources and develop stewardship plans.

The Metro Greenways land acquisition figures are included in the LCCMR land protection summary.

In the Twin Cities Metropolitan Area the program aims to successfully protect, restore, connect and manage a metro-wide network of regionally and locally significant natural areas and open spaces interconnected by ecological corridors. This land network improves water quality and ecosystem functions, sustains ecological diversity, and provides additional wildlife habitat.

*MN Constitution Art. XI, §14

State Policy Framework

Substantial State Investment

Enable Local Financing

State Incentive for Local Land Conservation

Public-Private Partnerships

Conservation Tax Credits

Federal Partnerships

Some data was not provided on a yearly basis, but rather as an aggregate figure. In this case we have distributed total acres acquired and/or dollars spent evenly by year.