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Minnesota Agencies

Information on Minnesota State Agencies, Boards, Task Forces, and Commissions

Compiled by the Minnesota Legislative Reference Library

Natural Resources Department

Also known as:
Minnesota Department of Natural Resources (DNR)
Active dates:1971-

The mission of the Minnesota DNR is to work with Minnesotans to conserve and manage the state's natural resources, to provide outdoor recreation opportunities, and to provide for commercial uses of natural resources in a way that creates a sustainable quality of life.


In 1971 the name of the Conservation Department was changed to the Department of Natural Resources (Laws of Minnesota 1969, chapter 1129). At that time the department's Administrative Division was made up of five service bureaus: Business Management, Engineering, Information and Education, Planning, and Legal Services. The operational divisions of the department at that time were: Game and Fish; Lands and Forestry; Parks and Recreation; Waters, Soils, and Minerals; and Enforcement and Field Service. The law also abolished the State Geographic Board and transferred all of its power and duties to the commissioner of natural resources.

During the period from 1972 to 1974 the department underwent a reorganization toward decentralization and regionalization. Five regions covering the state were established with offices in Bemidji, Grand Rapids, Brainerd, New Ulm, and Rochester. The regional administrators are responsible to the commissioner of natural resources and each is responsible for managing all resources within the region. This regional concept was implemented to expedite the transaction of affairs between the public and the department. Services, permits, decisions, and general information, formerly available only through the department headquarters in St. Paul, are now available at each regional office. During the 1972-1974 reorganization period, modifications were also made in the structure of the Administrative Division. A Bureau of Land was added to coordinate all land activities of the department, including land acquisition and supervision of leasing and sale of state lands. A Field Services Unit was created to coordinate use, purchase, and maintenance of equipment and vehicles. A Trails Section was established to coordinate establishment and use of land and water trails.

Agency heads:

The department is headed by a commissioner of natural resources who is appointed by the governor. The commissioner has charge and control of all the public lands, parks, timber, waters, minerals, and wild animals of the state and of the use, sale, leasing, or other disposition thereof, and of all records pertaining to the performance of the commissioner's functions relating thereto (see Minn. Stat. 84.027).

The commissioner serves a term of 4 years or at the pleasure of the governor. 


  • Robert Herbst (February 1971-February 1977)
  • William Nye (July 1977-June 1978)
  • Joseph Alexander (July 1978-January 1991)
  • Rodney Sando (January 1991-January 1999)
  • Alan Horner (January 13, 1999-January 19, 1999)
  • Allen Garber (February 1, 1999-January 2003)
  • Eugene Merriam (January 2003-January 2007)
  • Mark Holsten (January 2007-January 2011)
  • Tom Landwehr (January 2011-January 2019)
  • Sarah Strommen (January 2019 - )

Conservation Department included for 1955-1971.

Note: The Legislative Reference Library may have additional reports on or by this group available through our catalog.
Counterpoint: Protection of natural resources need citizens' boards. Star Tribune, 6/25/2024.
Department of Natural Resources Commissioner, 1971-present. Minnesota Legislative Reference Library, 2020.
A 'use-oriented' outdoorsman is ready to take over the DNR. Minneapolis Star, 5/28/1978.
News clippings and documents: Commissioner of Natural Resources . Agencies Notebook Collection, 1955-2019.
News clippings and documents: Natural Resources Department. Agencies Notebook Collection, 1967-2019.
Record last updated: 04/22/2024

All information on this group from the Library’s collection of agency notebooks has been digitized. These materials are incorporated into the “documents/articles” section of the record. Please contact a librarian with any questions. The Minnesota Agencies database is a work in progress.

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