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Indicator 6 8 : Changes in land use

Goal: Minnesotans will restore and maintain healthy ecosystems that support diverse plants and wildlife. This goal expresses the importance of lakes, wetlands, wildlife, prairies and forests to Minnesota's quality of life. It also recognizes that healthy ecosystems serve many environmental, social and economic purposes, from maintaining abundant plant, animal and fish life to sustaining a vibrant tourism industry.

Rationale: Shifts in land use give an indication of how the diversity of habitats is changing.

Minnesota land use, cropland (thousands of acres)


Data source: U.S. Department of Agriculture

Minnesota land use, grassland (thousands of acres)


Data source: U.S. Department of Agriculture

Minnesota land use, urban (thousands of acres)


Data source: U.S. Department of Agriculture

Minnesota land use, forest (thousands of acres)


Data source: U.S. Department of Agriculture

About this indicator: Trends from 1982 to 1997 show a slight net increase in forest land, a significant rise in both grassland and urban land, and a modest decline in cropland. Forest land increased from 16.0 million acres in 1982 to 16.2 million acres in 1997, an increase of just under 2 percent. Grassland increased from 3.9 million to 5.0 million acres, a 29 percent rise, and urban land climbed from 1.7 million to 2.2 million acres, up 27 percent, while Minnesota's population rose roughly 14 percent. Some of the increase in grassland, as well as a 7 percent decrease in cropland, can be attributed to shifting cropland into the Conservation Reserve Program.

For comparison: Minnesota's land use changes somewhat mirrored national trends, with forest land in the U.S. increasing by 1 percent, grassland rising 15 percent and urban areas expanding by 34 percent. Only cropland declined nationally, with a decrease of 11 percent.

Things to think about: Minnesota converted to urban use a total of 232,000 acres between 1992 and 1997, placing it 17th among the 50 states for its rate of development of non-federal land. During this same time period, Minnesota converted an average of 46,400 acres per year.

Although a relatively small percentage of Minnesota's land is urban, highly dispersed development patterns can fragment habitats into small, disconnected plots, and significantly affect ecosystems and the viability of species that depend on them.

Technical notes: The National Resources Inventory covers non-federal land in the United States -some 75 percent of the country's land area- and is conducted every five years by the USDA Natural Resources Conservation Service in cooperation with Iowa State University. The inventory is based on a sampling of 800,000 selected locations.
Figures may differ slightly from those reported in Minnesota Milestones 1998 because in 1997 the U.S. Department of Agriculture updated its figures for previous years of the National Resources Inventory.
There is no figure for wetlands because the data for 2000 is not yet available. Adding up the total number of acres for all land uses will not match the total acres of land in Minnesota because wetlands are not only reported separately but also counted as part of several other land use categories, such as grasslands, cropland and forest land.


  • U.S. Department of Agriculture, National Resources Inventory,

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