Scientific & Natural Areas Program

SNA Program Supervisor
500 Lafayette Road, Box 25
St. Paul, MN 55155
(651) 259-5088

Program Mission

Preserve and perpetuate the ecological diversity of Minnesota's natural heritage, including landforms, fossil remains, plant and animal communities, rare and endangered species, or other biotic features and geological formations, for scientific study and public edification as components of a healthy environment.

treeThe SNA Program's goal is to ensure that no single rare feature is lost from any region of the state. This requires protection and management of each feature in sufficient quantity and distribution across the landscape.

The activities utilized by the program to carry out its mission and goals include: land protection, management, education, research and prairie initiatives as well as producing publications, working with others, and helping private landowners.

prairieThe primary activity is the establishment of system of nature preserves called Scientific and Natural Areas. This system is found across Minnesota's landscape.

The Program's long-range goal is to protect at least:


  • Five locations of plant communities known to occur in each landscape region
  • Three locations per region of each rare species, plant or animal, and geological feature


treesProtection of multiple sites in each landscape region is a vital means of capturing the genetic diversity and preventing the loss of important species, communities, and features. This strategy observes the wisdom of not putting all our eggs in one basket.

The program, created by the 1969 Minnesota Legislature and advised by the Commissioner's Advisory Committee on Natural Heritage, currently administers about 160 natural areas encompassing:

  • Undisturbed plant communities, such as prairie or peatlands
  • Rare or endangered species habitat, such as the sunny rock outcrops needed for the uncommon five-lined skink
  • Seasonal habitat for bird or animal concentrations, such as herons, egrets and the endangered piping plover
  • Natural geologic formations and features, such as glacial formations
  • Plant communities undergoing succession as a result of natural processes, such as old-growth forests