Registering School Forest Land

Who is eligible to apply?DCEverest_SignONly.png
Any city, village, town or school district that has legal control of forested property.


School Forests have incredible educational value. They are used to:

     Meet state education and national core standards – Education programs at school forests help to meet diverse state mandated education standards including science, language arts, math, social studies, environmental education, art, and agriculture education.

     Integrate environmental education into the curriculum – Research has shown that using the environment as a theme across subject areas increases standardized test scores, improves attendance, and decreases behavior problems. A school forest should be an extension of the classroom that is used to enhance learning through hands-on, experiential approaches that can’t be accomplished in the school.

     Strengthen school and community relationships – Partnerships with community members, resources, and businesses can be formed at the school forest by utilizing the knowledge and experience of local companies and potentially supplying these companies with products. The school forest can also serve as a community resource by hosting education events and providing a recreation site for the public.

     Provide income – Forest products, non-timber forest products, and rental of facilities can generate income for the school. Ideally these funds would be invested in the school forest to maintain and support the program.

     Connect teachers and students to place – School forests can help re-localize education and connect students to their natural and human communities. A sense of place is essential in creating relevancy in education as well as assuring that we strive to live well in our place.

     Demonstrate sustainable natural resource management – School Forests serve as the context for understanding how management decisions and their life-style choices are related. The forest provides opportunities for students to become involved in resource management planning, implementing, and utilization of forest products.


What are the benefits of being a registered school forest?

Upon registration, the school or municipality is eligible:

  • for free trees and seed from the state forest nurseries
  • for technical assistance for DNR foresters for carrying out tree planting and forest management plans
  • to apply for Wisconsin Environmental Education Board (WEEB) school forest grants
  • to receive assistance from the Wisconsin School Forest Education Specialist


Entry Criteria:

1.    Property must be owned or under legal control (e.g., lease, easement) of a municipality or school district. Land use agreements with municipalities, leases from private land owners, and conservation easements are examples of ways schools can legally register a parcel of land as a school forest. McFarland_School Forest Land Use Agreement.pdfExample of Land Use Agreement

2.    The school board and governing body of the municipality must adopt a resolution to dedicate a parcel as a school or community forest.

3.    Wisconsin statues do not establish a minimum acreage or productivity requirement. However, the property should contain at least one acre of forest.

4.    The municipality or school district should indicate intent to actively manage the forest.

5.    School districts should indicate intent to provide sustainable forestry education as a component of their programs.

6.    A management plan or property description must be completed and approved. (Conditional acceptance can be granted prior to completion of a management plan based on forester recommendations).



Application Procedure

1.   Owner (or an authorized property representative) completes and application form, attaches minutes of meeting dedicating property as school or community forest, and submits it to the local DNR forester. (If this is not school owned land, a copy of the land-use agreement and municipality's governing board’s meeting minutes must also be included.) Download the Registration Form

2.   DNR forester visits site to ensure property meets criteria. Find the DNR forester who services your county.

3.   DNR forest completes recommendation section of the application.

4.   DNR Forester sends application and the meeting minutes referenced in 1. (above) to Wisconsin School Forest Education Specialist (LEAF, 800 Reserve Street – Room 110 TNR, Stevens Point, WI 54481).

5.   If land does not meet criteria, forester sends letter of explanation to the property representative and to the    Wisconsin School Forest Education Specialist indicating why it may not be registered.

6.   School Forest Education Specialist can conditionally approve acceptance based on forester recommendation with only the application form and meeting minutes.

7.   To gain final approval, a forest management plan must be completed and approved within one year of acceptance. Typically, a DNR forester creates the management plan; however, any individual, group, or organization can be involved in developing the plan. If a DNR forester does not develop the plan, it must be submitted to a DNR forester for review. Contact your local DNR forester for assistance. Link