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Why register a property as a school forest?

School forests have evolved into wonderful outdoor classrooms where students learn about the local ecosystem while engaging in lessons that span across the curriculum from math to social studies to foreign language and art. Your school forest can be used as a context and catalyst for learning.

Registered forests receive a variety of benefits. They are eligible to:

  • Receive free forest management assistance from the DNR–Division of Forestry.
  • Receive free seed and seedlings from the state reforestation program.
  • Receive assistance from the statewide school forest education specialist.
  • Join a statewide network of school forest educators that serve as a resource for all.

The school forest program is a partnership between the LEAF Program and DNR Division of Forestry. Registered school forests have access to resources, lessons, professional development, and LEAF staff members that help with the educational aspects of teaching students at the forest. Local DNR foresters, who provide services to school forests, assist with knowledge of the forest and how to sustainably maintain the land.

Criteria to Register a School Forest:

  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 landowners, and conservation easements are examples of ways schools can legally register a parcel of land as a school forest.
  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 by your local DNR forester. (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 an 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.)
  2. DNR forester visits site to ensure property meets criteria.
  3. DNR forester completes “DNR Forester’s Report” section and signs the application form.
  4. Send the application with Administrator and DNR forester signatures and the meeting minutes referenced in 1. (above) to Wisconsin School Forest Education Specialist (LEAF, 1108 Fremont Street – Room 201 SSC, Stevens Point, WI 54481).
  5. If land does not meet criteria, the 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 and approval.

School Forest Resources

Use the buttons below to navigate the rest of the school forest website to find relevant information and resources for your local school forest programs.

About Wisconsin’s School Forests

Learn more about the Wisconsin’s School Forest Program’s history, and explore the registered School Forests around Wisconsin.

Getting Started / Registration

Learn more about the educational value that the School Forest Program offers, who is eligible to apply, and the registration process.

Developing Your School Forest Program

Developing your School Forest Program can be challenging. LEAF’s School Forest Program provides several tools to get you started.

Sustaining Your School Forest

LEAF provides several tools and resources you may find helpful as you think about programming to offer at your school forest.