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.