How to get started?

Did you know approximately 40% of Minnesota’s woodlands are privately owned? Forested lands provide many services to you, and to surrounding communities at the county, state, national, and global scale. By providing habitat for wildlife, clean water, timber and wood products, carbon sequestration, and good air quality, everyone benefits from well managed forests. Your property is an important puzzle piece in the landscape ecology.

Many agencies offer financial assistance programs for landowners in order to assist you with managing your forest to meet your goals whether that be improving wildlife habitat, encouraging fast growth of profitable timber, or ensuring your trees remain healthy for your family and future generations to enjoy. Below are brief summaries of different programs that are commonly utilized by landowners in the area.

The District offers a free site visit and consultation for landowners with land management and tree care questions and concerns.  Ask our Forester your land management and tree care questions including insect, pest, disease, timber harvesting, planting and other landscape questions. We can help identify issues, propose solutions plus explain and navigate the numerous options available for your forest management project.

There are 2 state incentive programs, each needs a Woodland Stewardship Plan registered with the DNR in order to apply.

  • A WSP must be written by certified plan preparer (DNR, SWCD or private) 
    • Covers a minimum of 20 acres of land (after homestead exclusion) of which at least 10 acres has or will have trees
    • Valid for 10 years
  • Having a WSP written may qualify you to apply for one of the two state incentive programs:
    • SFIA (Sustainable Forest Incentive Act):
      • Sign land into a covenant to not turn it into agriculture or develop it
        • 8 yrs. = $10.09/acre
        • 20 yrs. = $13.98/acre
        • 50 yrs. = $17.86/acre
      • If you sell part or all of the property, the covenant persists under new ownership and the buyers would receive yearly payments after completing a new application.
      • Covenants are perpetual and remain binding until released by the Department of Revenue (a waiting period applies)
      • Contact a SWCD, DNR, or private forester if you would like SFIA application assistance.
    • 2c Managed Forest Land: 
      • Changes the way your property taxes are classified and is calculated at a rate of 0.65% (0.35% reduction).
      • Land enrolled in 2c cannot be used in agriculture or have structures on it.
      • 2c is a short-term commitment (year-to-year) and does not transfer to a new owner.

What is a Woodland Stewardship Plan?

Woodland Stewardship Plans are formal written plans that provide an overview of the landscape, technical advice, and long-range forest management planning. Plans are tailored to your specific goals and interests while maintaining the sustainability of the landscape. Woodland stewardship plans are an excellent starting point for any woodland owner interested in learning more about their resources and caring for the future of Minnesota forests. 

The District charges a plan writing fee of $300 plus $10 per acre. You can also have a DNR or private forester write the plan if you wish. Be sure they are certified to write a forest stewardship plan if you intend to enroll your acres in a state administered program. Free SFIA application assistance is also offered by the District.

There are also programs that offer landowners financial assistance to complete specific management projects.

  • EQIP (Environmental Quality Incentive Program): 
    • Federal program
    • No minimum acreage
    • Apply for funding to complete forest management projects
    • Common Projects:
      • Removing dead balsam fir trees 
      • Planting trees
      • Brush cutting
      • Fencing
      • Pollinator plantings
    • Apply with SWCD or NRCS foresters. Woodland Stewardship Plan writing fee may be waived if eligible.
  • DNR Cost-Share Program:
    • No minimum acreage
    • Apply for funding to complete forest management projects
    • Common Projects:
      • Stand harvest/thinning
      • Brush management
      • Removing dead balsam fir trees
      • Drought-death seedling re-planting
    • Apply with a DNR Forester 

What is EQIP?

Environmental Quality Incentives Program, or EQIP, is a federal program that offers financial assistance to landowners wanting to manage natural resources or install sustainable land use equipment or strategies. Our foresters work closely with the USDA- Natural Resource Conservation Service to assist local landowners in applying for this program. 

Contact us to learn more.

Compare Program Options

Additional Resources:

Tree Care

Firewise Homes/Cabins

Forestry Programs

Managing Woodlands for Wildlife


North St. Louis Soil and Water Conservation District

505 3rd St N, Ste A,
Virginia, MN 55792
Office Hours: 8:30 - 4 Monday-Friday and by appointment

Upcoming Board Meetings

Wednesday, June 12th at 10:30 a.m.
This meeting will be held in-person at the SWCD office. A link is available to join virtually by contacting Anita at least 2 hours prior to the meeting. The public is welcome to attend.

View Meeting Schedule »
Minnesota Clean Air and Water Legacy Amendment