Southeast Forest Habitat Enhancement

Project Details by Fiscal Year
2016 Fiscal Year Funding Amount
Fund Source
Outdoor Heritage Fund
Recipient Type
State Government
Start Date
July 2015
End Date
October 2020
Activity Type
Counties Affected
Project Overview

With these funds the DNR enhanced almost 3,100 acres on 140 different tracts within State Forests and Wildlife Management Area lands in southeastern Minnesota.  While a lot of forest management can be conducted with well-planned and carefully conducted timber harvests, these activities enhanced these forested habitats beyond standard harvest practices such as increasing hard mast production (acorns, hickory nuts, etc).  This will provide long-term benefits for a range of wildlife species and increased recreational opportunities for Minnesotans.

Project Details

With this appropriation, DNR Wildlife and Forestry staff used a range of forest enhancement techniques to increase the quality of habitat for a range of wildlife species.  These techniques and their objectives are listed below.  

Invasive species removal – There are numerous invasive species in the southeast.  Buckthorn may be the species doing the most damage to these forests, but there are other shrubs, vines, and herbaceous plants that also affect forest productivity and diversity.  In many cases, this is done shortly after a tree harvest to try to catch invasives at the establishment phase instead of once they have become well-established. 

Understory mowing – This is another type of invasive control used where the invasive species are so dense and the patches so large that chemical treatment or hand-work just isn’t reasonable.  

Tree thinning – Tree thinning is the selective removal of less desirable species, either for timber production or wildlife benefits, that outcompete more desirable species.  With less competition, these more desirable species are able to grow and reach maturity much faster as well as produce more mast for food.  In some cases, certain trees can be girdled, killing them, but leave them standing.  These trees can provide cavities for wildlife.  However, this technique isn’t used near trails or roads where the tree which will eventually falls could damage property or injure people.  

Tree release –  Often 'release' is a term used when enhancing mixed hardwood stands and thinning is more often used in areas heavily dominated by a single tree species.  The two are variations on a theme but with the same ultimate goal.  For instance, if an oak and boxelder or basswood are growing close together, a wildlife biologist might cut the boxelder or basswood and release the oak to grow faster and produce more acorns.  

Seedling planting – With this method seedlings of the desired species are planted in an area.  By planting seedlings, the trees get a 1-2 year head start on overgrowing other competing vegetation.  

Direct seeding – Direct seeding is used with mast species such as oaks where seeds are harvested and then directed spread onto the soil surface.  With this method, wildlife managers can do relatively larger acres than with seedling planting.  The determination of which of these two methods is most effective is made on a site by site basis.  

Herbicide release – Herbicide release is often used to knock back herbaceous vegetation that can shade the soil surface and discourage seed germination or stump/root sprouting.

Legal Citation / Subdivision
ML 2015, First Sp. Session, Ch. 2, Art. 1, Sec. 2, Subd. 3(g)
Appropriation Language

$910,000 in the first year is to the commissioner of natural resources to enhance forests in southeastern Minnesota. A list of proposed land enhancements must be provided as part of the required accomplishment plan.

2016 Fiscal Year Funding Amount
Other Funds Leveraged
Direct expenses
Administration costs
Measurable Outcome(s)

Enhanced 3,095 acres

Source of Additional Funds


Project Manager
First Name
Last Name
Organization Name
MN DNR Wildlife
Street Address
500 Lafayette Rd Box 20
St. Paul
Zip Code
(651) 259-5230
Administered By
Administered by

500 Lafayette Road
St. Paul, MN 55155

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