Scientific and Natural Areas

Performance Area: Natural Lands

Number of sites protected in Scientific and Natural Areas (SNAs)


Why Is This Important?

Minnesota’s Scientific and Natural Areas (SNAs) preserve and perpetuate the state's ecological diversity including native plant communities, rare species, and geological features. They may also contain successional processes, natural formations, and fossil evidence. Scientific and Natural Areas are public lands open to recreational activities that do not disturb natural conditions, such as bird watching, nature photography and hiking. The SNA program’s goal is to ensure that Minnesota's natural heritage is not lost from any ecological region of the state. Protection of multiple sites in each landscape region is a vital means of capturing the genetic diversity and preventing the loss of important species, communities, and features. It is estimated that 300 natural areas are needed throughout the state to adequately protect significant features.


What Is DNR Doing?

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Management of Scientific and Natural Areas, such as prescribed burns on native prairie, enhances rare and unique features.   Image 1 of 4 (use left/right arrows to navigate previous/next)
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Fall colors accent the preserved old-growth pines at Lost 40 SNA.   Image 2 of 4 (use left/right arrows to navigate previous/next)
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Shadows and sun cloak the exceptional prairie highlands at Prairie Coteau SNA.   Image 3 of 4 (use left/right arrows to navigate previous/next)
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Research on Scientific and Natural Areas is valuable for our understanding of native species and natural systems.   Image 4 of 4 (use left/right arrows to navigate previous/next)

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The SNA program administers over 192,000 acres of designated scientific and natural areas across Minnesota. The program protects and manages land, engages citizens, provides volunteer opportunities, promotes research, and helps private landowners. The DNR works with stakeholders to create long-term plans to acquire priority sites.


Target: Designate three to five new SNAs each biennium.

The DNR’s long-term goal for 2085, set with stakeholder input, is to manage a system of 300 natural areas by establishing at least five SNAs per ecological subsection for state significant natural communities, and establishing at least three SNAs per subsection for rare species and geological features.