Minnesota Land Use and Cover

Viewers can explore land use for the entire state and individual counties through an interactive mapping tool and statistical profiles of land use data collected during the 1990s. The land use statistics were generated to generally correspond to the published statewide map titled Minnesota Land Use and Cover: 1990s Census of the Land. The map was produced by the Department of Natural Resources using data from seven separate land use and cover inventories to create a consistent, statewide inventory.

An eight-category scheme was developed in order to merge data from varying time periods, land use and cover definitions, data collection techniques and data resolutions. Data was compiled from several inventories including those of the Manitoba Remote Sensing Centre; the International Coalition; Metropolitan Council and University of Minnesota; Bemidji State University Geography Department and Beltrami and Clearwater Counties; Rochester-Olmsted County Planning Department; and the Minnesota Department of Natural Resources, Forestry Division.

Return to state land use and cover map

Category definitions

Urban and rural development:  residential, commercial, industrial, cultural and recreational developments and related developments such as power plants, power lines, pipelines, airports, waste treatment facilities, golf courses, farmsteads and feedlots. Associated structures include garages, sheds and landscaped areas.

Cultivated land:  areas under intensive cropping or rotation, including fallow fields and fields seeded for forage or cover crops that exhibit linear or other patterns associated with current tillage 

Hay/pasture/grassland:  areas covered by grasslands and herbaceous plants; these may contain up to one-third shrub and tree cover. Some areas may be used as pastures and mowed or grazed. Included are fields that show evidence of past tillage but now appear to be abandoned and grown over with native vegetation or planted with a cover crop.

Brushland:  areas with a combination of grass, shrubs, and trees in which deciduous or coniferous tree cover comprises from one to two-thirds of the area, or shrub cover comprises more than one-third of the area. These areas are often found adjacent to hay/pasture/grassland or forested areas and vary greatly in shape and extent. 

Forested:  areas where two-thirds or more of the total canopy cover is composed of predominantly woody deciduous and coniferous species and areas of regenerated or young forest where commercial timber has been completely or partially removed by logging, other management activities or natural events; includes woodlots, shelterbelts and plantations. 

Water:  permanent bodies of water such as lakes, rivers, reservoirs, stock ponds and open water areas where photo evidence indicates that the areas are covered by water the majority of the time 

Bog/marsh/fen:  grassy, wet areas with standing or slowly moving water. Vegetation consists of grass and sedge sods, and common hydrophilic vegetation such as cattail and rushes. These areas include wetlands with lowland coniferous forest and peat-covered or peat-filled depressions with a high water table; areas are often interspersed with channels or pools of open water. 

Mining:  area stripped of topsoil revealing exposed substrate such as sand or gravel, including gravel quarries, mine tailings, borrow pits and rock quarries. Included are areas that lack appreciable soil development or vegetation cover such as rock outcrops, sand dunes or beaches. 

How the statistics were generated

The Minnesota Department of Natural Resources generated the land use statistics through the following process: Data from the statewide map Minnesota Land Use and Cover: 1990s Census of the Land was stored by county and matched to the departments version of the state’s county borders. The statewide map incorporates the major transportation routes from the Minnesota Department of Transportation’s road file rather than being interpreted from Landsat imagery or aerial photography. The process of creating the statewide coverage involved rasterizing all existing vector land use datasets at a resolution of 30 meters squared. The resulting files were mosaicked together to form a single statewide working Arc/Info GRID. The statistics were then generated by crosstabulating DNR's County border data with the Statewide coverage. All processing of vector and raster data was performed using ESRI's ArcView Spatial Analyst Grid processing software.

Uses and cautions

This land use map and its corresponding statistics are not directly comparable to other inventories. MnGeo does not warrant the results that may be obtained by using this map. This map and statistics are provided as is, without express or implied warranties, including warranties of merchantability and fitness. In no event will MnGeo be liable for any consequential, incidental or special damages, including any lost profits or lost savings, even if it has been advised of the possibility of such damages or any claim by any third party.

Data documentation

Documentation for the eight-category land use dataset shown here is in the Minnesota Land Use and Cover: 1990s Census of the Land metadata record.

Documentation for the more detailed data sources used to create the 1990s Census of the Land is in the following records (documentation for Olmsted County is not available):

Both the Agricultural and Transition Areas inventory and the Forested Areas inventory were funded by the Legislature as recommended by the Legislative Commission on Minnesota Resources.

Application development

This application was developed by MnGeo (formerly the Land Management Information Center) web and applications programmers using MapServer and EPPL7 software utilities. A special thanks to the Department of Natural Resources applications staff who consolidated the original land use inventories and modified the MapServer technology.