Old-Growth Forest

Performance Area: Natural Lands

Acres of protected old-growth forest on DNR lands


Why Is This Important?

Old-growth forests are the later stages of forest succession in forested ecosystems. They are home to trees reaching their oldest growth stages and contain many biological features that have developed over hundreds over years. Older conifer and hardwood forests once covered 51 percent of Minnesota's forested regions. Today only remnants remain of these unique pieces of the state's natural history. Minnesota's remaining old-growth forests are important for their ecological, scientific, educational, aesthetic, and spiritual values.


What Is DNR Doing?

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This old-growth yellow birch/white cedar forest at Crosby Manitou State Park provides valuable habitat, scientific information, and beauty.   Image 1 of 1 (use left/right arrows to navigate previous/next)

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In 1994, DNR initiated efforts to identify and protect old-growth forests on DNR-administered land. In 2003, DNR designated its original 44-acre network of old-growth pine, hardwood, oak, and ash forests. DNR's goal is to maintain a viable statewide network of high-quality old-growth forest sites along with relatively undisturbed, natural-origin younger forests that will be managed to promote old-growth characteristics into the future (i.e., future old-growth). These forests are reserved from timber harvest.


Target: Maintain a 44,000-acre network of designated DNR old-growth and potential future old-growth forest sites.

The DNR's old growth network will change in response to new information and conditions. If new high quality old-growth stands are discovered, they will be added to the network and may replace lower quality stands. Designated stands that are destroyed by wildfire or severe storms may be removed from the network. If needed, additional future old-growth stands may be added to the network.

Lowland conifer old-growth was not included in DNR's original old-growth designation effort due to a lack of sufficient data to characterize old-growth candidates in these ecosystems, as well as the relatively high abundance of lowland conifer forests on DNR-administered land. DNR is currently working to complete a designation process for lowland conifer old-growth forests.