Changes to the Minnesota Forest Stewardship Program

By Gary Michael, MN DNR – Division of Forestry

Forest Stewardship Program logoJANUARY 2010:  The Minnesota Department of Natural Resources – Division of Forestry’s Forest Stewardship Program (FSP) is undertaking a major shift in how it operates. For decades the FSP has been delivering free forest management plans to non-industrial private forest landowners.

A recent change in funding and an increase in demand will require the FSP to be a more self sufficient program. To achieve greater self sufficiency, the Division of Forestry has begun to charge a fee for a forest management plan.

The fee is approximately 65% of the actual cost to produce the plans, and is designed to allow the FSP to continue indefinitely without limited funding required.  You can figure out the exact cost to the landowner based on acreage in the forest management plan fee structure (PDF), but it is important to learn more about the program’s values and benefits to individual landowners as well as all citizens of Minnesota.

The new FSP policy took effect officially on the December 1, 2009.  Around that date, landowners already on a waiting list were contacted with a letter and informed that they will now be charged a fee.  They were asked to call their forester and inform them if they wanted to remain on the list.

Benefits of FSP participation:

  • One-on-one forest management advice from a professional forester or natural resource manager. The advice will help them achieve their forest management goals.
  • Minnesota’s wildlands, waters, and wildlife species, through better natural resource management, will supply them and the surrounding landscape multiple benefits.
  • Eligibility for many state and federal cost share programs once they have a plan. Cost share programs include, but are not limited to, state cost share, EQIP, WHIP, Conservation Stewardship Program, and Biomass Crop Assistance Program.
  • Registering a stewardship plan and agreeing to implement the plan’s recommendations allow landowners to enroll their lands into one of Minnesota’s property tax programs. This financial benefit will typically pay for the cost of the stewardship plan within one to two years.

Forest management plan (referred to as a Stewardship Plan) eligibility requires twenty acres of tree or other woody vegetation after the plan has been implemented.  Exemptions may be applied for on an individual basis.

Examples to clarify the twenty-acre minimum:

  • If a landowner owns 40 total acres with only 11 acres of woodland, and he or she is interested in planting 9 more acres of trees, they would be eligible to receive a Stewardship plan.
  • If a landowner owns 18 acres total, and all the acres are wooded, he or she would need an exemption to receive a Stewardship Plan, as they would not meet the minimum 20 wooded acre criteria.
  • If a landowner has 30 total acres with only 11 acres of woodland and the landowner does not have any interest in establishing additional acres of trees or other woody vegetation, he or she would not be eligible to receive a plan unless an exemption has been granted.  Exemptions are rare in this case.

Once it is determined that the landowner is eligible for a Stewardship plan, all forested acres and other acres that have significant effect on the forest are eligible acres for the plan (i.e. wetlands, native prairie, etc.)

Many times only a portion of the total land owned is eligible for a stewardship plan.  The fee only reflects the acres included in the plan.  The forester will determine the plan acres, based on specific eligibility guidelines for the FSP and the forester’s decision is final.

All plans will need to be registered with the DNR Division of Forestry.  Registration allows the DNR to track who has a qualifying plan for the available tax programs and for reporting requirements.  Registration is required for eligibility into tax programs and for cost-share assistance on various projects the landowner may wish to implement.

The fee will be a minimum of $230 for a 20 acre plan and a maximum of $1,000 for all plans over 260 acres (up to 1,000 acres).  Learn more in the detailed FSP fee schedule (PDF).

In some locations the waiting list for a Stewardship plan may be long, particularly with the increased demand expected by recent tax law changes.  If interested in receiving a Stewardship plan, be sure to call your local DNR Forestry office to get the process started.

Gary coordinates the Forest Stewardship Program for the MN DNR. He's based in Faribault. (MFA photo)

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6 Comments

  1. I only have a 40 but do wonder if it would be financially worthwhile to go through the paperwork and get it formally entered in a “Plan”.

    Twice I’ve contacted DNR Forestry in Side Lake about getting a Stewardship Plan and both times I’ve gotten a pat on the back and told to just keep doing what I’m doing. Thanks guys! Apparently not worth consideration.

    Other ideas?

    Thanks

  2. Erv,

    Determining if receiving a Stewardship plan is financially worthwhile has to be decided by each individual landonwer. The tax programs currently available, and unchanged, will certainly pay for the cost of a plan within a year or two.

    As with most government programs, there is some bureaucracy involved. If you can tolerate it, I think you will find the end result worthwhile.

    Our foresters are encouraged to listen to the customer and provide the best service possible with the resources available. Hopefully that will be your experience if you decide to move forward with receiving a Stewardship plan.

    Thanks for the comment, feel free to call me and discuss further.
    Gary Michael
    507-333-2011 x221

  3. To Erv Berglund
    I think Gary missed your point. I sensed your local DNR rangers kissed you off as not worth their time. It is indeed worthwhile to have a registered Stewardship plan for your woodland. Perhaps none of the rangers at your local DNR office were qualified to prepare a certified plan for you. There are consulting foresters who are qualified to prepare plans, albeit for a fee, as the DNR is now charging a fee. Your local DNR office should have a list of consulting foresters in your area who are qualified to prepare registered Stewardship plans. If you enrolled in SFI Act, you would indeed receive a payback of their fee in at most 3 years time at current payments by the program. Longer if you enrolled in the Ag 2c program.

  4. Erv,

    That point was not missed by me at all actually. My response to that was:

    “Our foresters are encouraged to listen to the customer and provide the best service possible with the resources available. Hopefully that will be your experience if you decide to move forward with receiving a Stewardship plan.”

    If that is not his experience, I will need more than a post on this website to take action. Therefore I left my contact information in case he would like to discuss it further. There are plan writers in the Side Lake Area that are DNRforesters, consultants hired by the DNR, and consultants that can provide a “cash” plan.

    Gary Michael