How 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.

Black and white photograph of a man with string of fish caught in Itasca Lake, c.1915.

Man with string of fish caught in Itasca Lake

Man with string of fish caught in Itasca Lake, c.1915.

Black and white portrait of Mary Gibbs, commissioner of Itasca State Park and the first woman in the U.S. to hold the position of park commissioner, 1903.

Mary Gibbs

Mary Gibbs, commissioner of Itasca State Park and the first woman in the U.S. to hold the position of park commissioner, 1903. Photographer unknown.

Black and white photograph of Pine woods at Lake Itasca, 1900.

Pine woods, Lake Itasca

Pine woods at Lake Itasca, 1900. Photographer unknown.

Black and white photograph of Outdoor activities at Itasca State Park, 1898.

Man seated by a tent at Lake Itasca

Outdoor activities at Itasca State Park, 1898. Photographer unknown.

Black and white photograph of Jacob Brower, 1897.

Jacob Brower

Jacob Brower, 1897. Brower was a surveyor who was instrumental in forming Itasca State Park and became the park’s first commissioner. Photographer unknown.

Detailed hydrographic chart of the source of the Mississippi River (Lake Itasca) and surrounding area completed by Jacob Brower in 1891.

Map of the source of the Mississippi River

Detailed hydrographic chart of the source of the Mississippi River (Lake Itasca) and surrounding area completed by Jacob Brower in 1891.

Black and white photograph of Jacob Brower at the Lake Itasca basin at DeSoto Lake, 1889.

Jacob Brower at DeSoto Lake

Jacob Brower at the Lake Itasca basin at DeSoto Lake, 1889.

The Creation of Itasca State Park

The Itasca forest during the late nineteenth century contained towering pines and numerous lakes. Individuals like surveyor Jacob Brower became captivated by the region and the wildlife that inhabited it. They recognized that the economic potential of northern Minnesota would change its landscape. Their effort to preserve Lake Itasca led them to contend with the lumber industry, public interests, and the politics that weaved between them.

Black and white photograph of the Ranger Residence at the Marcell Ranger Station, 1940.

Ranger's Dwelling at Marcell Ranger Station

The Ranger Residence at the Marcell Ranger Station, 1940.

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