Forest Management Guidelines

The development of comprehensive forest management guidelines is a core mandate of the Sustainable Forest Resources Act. Development and implementation of the guidelines has served as a foundation of the work performed by the MFRCl. The guidelines are intended to reduce the potential for negative environmental impacts resulting from timber harvesting and other forest-management activities on all forest lands in the State. The guidelines are used primarily by forest managers, loggers, and forest landowners during forestry activities such as timber harvesting.

Minnesota’s timber harvesting and forest management guidelines address the management, use, and protection of historic and cultural resources, riparian areas, soil productivity, water quality and wetlands, wildlife habitat, and visual quality. These guidelines are:

  • Comprehensive—Address a wide variety of forest resource issues.
  • Science-based—Grounded in the best available scientific information.
  • Voluntary—All landowners apply the guidelines according to their management objectives.
  • Integrated—Guidelines protecting various forest functions and values are contained in one cohesive package.
  • Flexible—Accommodate a range of site-level conditions and management objectives.
  • Stakeholder based—Involve the full spectrum of interests in guidelines development, education, and monitoring.
Documents are available in accessible formats upon request

Minnesota’s Forest Management Guidelines: Quick Reference Field Guide


*Check out the updated Minnesota Forest Management Guidelines: Quick Reference Field Guide with new interactive features. Now you can use bookmarks and a linked table of contents to easily navigate through the guidelines. Simply click on the picture of the tree stump in the bottom or top right corner of each page to return to the table of contents.

If you have used the Forest Management Guidelines—or the quick reference field guide or electronic PDF version—we encourage you to provide feedback using the form below.

Forest Management guidelines feedback


Guideline Development

Shortly after its inception in 1995, the MFRC implemented a process that assembled diverse stakeholder groups to create science- and consensus-based voluntary site-level forest management guidelines. From mid-1996 to late 1997, more than 60 people participated on four technical teams to draft proposed guidelines for forest soil productivity, historic and cultural resources, riparian zone management, and wildlife habitat. Throughout 1998, an integration team blended these four sets with existing water quality/wetland and visual quality best management practices, generating a comprehensive set of forest practices guidelines that provided a suite of cost-effective options for management. In December 1998, the MFRC unanimously adopted the final set of guidelines which were eventually published in early 1999. The initial analysis also identified how guidelines may affect timber availability.

Since their inception the guidelines have been revised three times, with the first comprehensive revision completed in 2005 as outlined in the SFRA. In that same year, the Minnesota Legislature directed the MFRC to develop guidelines related to woody biomass harvesting on forestland in response to emerging concerns on increased utilization for bioenergy production. The woody biomass harvest guidelines were published in January 2008, representing the first state-level guidelines in the United States for the sustainable removal of woody biomass for energy from forests, brushlands, and open lands. The MFRC initiated a third revision in 2010 to address long-standing issues with the riparian area guidelines, but other topical areas were also evaluated for revision, and the entire revision process was completed in late 2012. A condensed version of the guidelines that focuses on those most commonly used during timber harvesting was published in 2014. The condensed version is user-friendly pocket field guide that summarizes the guidelines in a concise format that includes picture examples, useful tips, and a compilation of online resources.

Guideline Training and Outreach

Training in guideline use and application has long been a primary mechanism employed to improve guideline implementation. Training is generally targeted to those who implement the guidelines in the field: loggers, foresters, and managers. The MFRC works closely with the Minnesota Logger Education Program (MLEP) and the Sustainable Forests Education Cooperative to provide a variety of educational opportunities related to the guidelines.

The Minnesota Logger Education Program (MLEP) is a logger-initiated program established in 1995 to promote high operational standards, enhance logger professionalism, and respond to the SFRA. MLEP provides training on the MFRC voluntary forest management guidelines. In addition to classroom and field training opportunities, online, self-paced training has recently become available. For more information about training opportunities, refer to the MLEP workshop page.

The Sustainable Forests Education Cooperative (SFEC), located in the University of Minnesota’s College of Food, Agricultural, and Natural Resource Sciences, was established in response to the SFRA in 1995. More than 40 organizations—including private, county, state, federal, and tribal institutions—represent the cooperative membership. Its purpose is to provide innovative education programs for natural resource professionals by offering training on current research findings, new technologies, and state-of-the-art practices. For more information and training opportunities, refer to the SFEC webpage.

Updated 2017-02-23