How The Environment Has Shaped the State

From Sustenance to Leisure on Minnesota Land

Expert Essay: Associate professor of history Michael J. Lansing, published in Environmental History as well as Ethics, Place, and Environment, highlights the many ways people have made use of Minnesota's flora and fauna over time and reviews the state's more recent efforts at conservation.

Color image of a Red-headed woodpecker, 2010.

Red-headed woodpecker

Red-headed woodpecker, 2010. Photographed by Faith Balch. Used with the permission of Faith Balch and the Minnesota Department of Natural Resources.

Map showing the extent of the oak savanna ecosystem in Minnesota.

Oak savanna map

Map showing the extent of the oak savanna ecosystem in Minnesota created by Faith Balch. The areas colored dark green are oak savanna lands. Used with the permission of Faith Balch and the Minnesota Department of Natural Resources.

Color image of oak savanna in spring, ca. 2010.

Oak savanna in spring

Oak savanna in spring, ca. 2010. Photographed by Linda Huhn Photography. Used with the permission of Linda Huhn and the Minnesota Department of Natural Resources.

Color image of an oak savanna in summer, ca. 2010.

Oak savanna in summer

Oak savanna in summer, ca. 2010. Photographed by Craig Thiesen. Used with the permission of Craig Thiesen and the Minnesota Department of Natural Resources.

Color image of the Helen Allison Savanna Scientific and Natural Area, Anoka County, ca. 2010.

Oak savanna landscape

Helen Allison Savanna Scientific and Natural Area, Anoka County, ca. 2010. Used with the permission of the Minnesota Department of Natural Resources.

Oak savanna

Oak savannas—open grassland studded by tall, spreading oak trees—once covered 10 percent of Minnesota, mostly in the southeast quarter of the state. They are an attractive ecosystem for animals such as deer, turkeys, and red-headed woodpeckers. Before European immigration, indigenous people valued the savannas for the good hunting they provided, fostering and maintaining them through the use of regular fire. In 2017, only about one percent of the savannas that 200 years ago remain.

Origins of the University of Minnesota Extension Service

The Agricultural Extension Service of the United States (AES) began as an educational component of land-grant universities. In Minnesota as in other states, the federally funded and organized services of AES provide practical agricultural training to people outside of a university setting.

State Capitol Fire, 1881

As Minnesota state legislators met on the evening of March 1, 1881, two days before the end of their twenty-second session, two pages alerted them to a fire in the building. Quick action by lawmakers and nearby residents saved important documents, furnishings, and historical collections. The fire took no lives but destroyed Minnesota's first capitol building.

Black and white photograph of legislators (including Allan Spear, far right) tour the Minnesota Zoological Garden, 1980.

Legislators (including Allan Spear, far right) tour the Minnesota Zoological Garden

Legislators (including Allan Spear, far right) tour the Minnesota Zoological Garden, 1980.

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