Trees and forestry

Trees and forests provide many benefits, including improving our air and water, making ourselves and our communities healthier, reducing the urban heat island effect, providing wildlife habitat, saving energy and increasing property values.

The tree canopy in Hennepin County faces a number of threats, including development, insects and diseases, climate extremes, and poor installation and maintenance.

The county has programs and resources available to help protect and enhance our tree canopy.

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Tree planting and reforestation

Hennepin County plants and maintains trees on sites throughout the county in partnership with cities, libraries, community organization and schools. Planting projects include along county roadways, at county libraries and facilities, at schools and parks, and in natural areas and conservation easements.  

Gravel-bed nursery

Most of the trees the county plants come from the county's gravel-bed nursery, located at the Hennepin County Adult Corrections Facility in Plymouth. The gravel-bed nursery gives the county access to hardy, diverse and cost-effective trees for use on county projects and properties.

Every spring, 1,500 young saplings of a variety of species are purchased from commercial nurseries and planted in the gravel-bed. The trees grow and develop a good root structure throughout the summer, and are ready to be transplanted in the fall. 

Compared to conventional nursery trees, the gravel-bed nursery gives the county access to a wider diversity of tree species, produces trees that have a higher survival rate, and allows the county to plant trees in a more cost-effective manner. The gravel-bed nursery is also helping the county proactively replace ash trees that will ultimately be infested with the emerald ash borer. 

Planting projects

Trees from the gravel-bed nursery are transplanted to a variety of county projects and properties.

Examples of planting projects that the county has or is working on include:

  • Arbor Day plantings at various locations
  • Community locations: including along the Midtown Greenway, at schools and in parks
  • Hennepin County facilities and libraries
  • Restoration projects in natural areas and conservation easements
  • Transportation and transit corridors

Assistance available

If you are looking for assistance with a planting project or are interested in installing a gravel-bed nursery, contact Dustin Ellis at or 612-348-2259.

Education and volunteer opportunities

Hennepin County offers training classes and volunteer opportunities for residents interested in tree care. 

Tree steward class

Tree steward classes cover the basics of tree biology, tree planting, watering, pruning, and tree health through a combination of classroom instruction and hands-on, outdoor field experience. Classes are offered in partnership with the University of Minnesota and host cities. 

After completing the class, volunteers have opportunities to help plant and care for trees with the county and partnering organizations.

Classes are open to the public, and no experience is needed. The University of Minnesota provides the necessary tools and safety equipment. Participants should dress appropriately for being outside.

Upcoming classes

Hennepin County, in partnership with the University of Minnesota and the City of Richfield, is holding a class to train tree steward volunteers.

The class will be held:

  • Date: Saturday, August 18
  • Time: 9 a.m. to 5 p.m.
  • Location: Wood Lake Nature Center, 6710 Lake Shore Drive South, Richfield
  • Cost: $25 per person

Complete the Hennepin County Environment and Energy volunteer application to sign up for the class. Select tree stewards under area of interest.

Get notified of future classes

Tree steward class dates and locations are being planned for 2018. If you would like to be notified when the schedule and registration is available for future tree steward classes, contact Jen Kullgren at or 612-596-1175.

Emerald ash borer

Emerald ash borer, an invasive tree pest that attacks and kills ash trees, is the biggest current threat to our tree canopy. There are over 1 million ash trees in Hennepin County, and 100 percent of them are threatened by the emerald ash borer. Most residents live within 15 miles of an infested ash tree, which means they should be taking steps now to determine if they have ash trees on their property and how they are going to manage them.

Options for managing ash trees from the threat of emerald ash borer

Visit our ash trees and emerald ash borer website to learn more about the threat of emerald ash borer and options for managing ash trees.

Hennepin County emerald ash borer plan

Learn more about the emerald ash tree in Hennepin County and the county's plans to address the tree pest in the Hennepin County tree canopy enhancement and emerald ash borer plan (PDF).

Canopy forestry updates newsletter

Canopy is a quarterly newsletter to share updates and news about trees and forestry in Hennepin County. This newsletter is intended to be a collaborative effort to share news, upcoming events, and resources.

Sign up to receive Canopy.

Latest editions

Spring 2018

  • Celebrate Arbor Day: Hennepin County planting projects and Arbor Day events map
  • New online tree inventory application released
  • Tree steward class empowers community volunteers
  • Hennepin County and partners receive outstanding project award
  • Spring planting projects
  • Upcoming events

Winter 2017

  • More than 1,000 trees planted throughout Hennepin County this fall: updates on roadway plantings, fruit tree orchard establishments, and natural area improvements
  • Tree stewards class empowers community volunteers
  • Tree projects to tackle this winter
  • Events and training opportunities
    • Rochester Arborist Workshop
    • Minnesota Shade Tree Short Course
    • Tree mapping technologies for modern urban forest management

Summer 2017

  • Hennepin County completes tree canopy cover assessment
  • Project highlights
    • Hennepin County and Golden Valley partner to remove and replace ash trees
    • Fall tree plantings
  • Events, workshops and training opportunities
    • Training class for volunteer tree stewards
    • Trees and forestry field trip with the Hennepin County Green Partners environmental education network
    • MnSTAC Field Day at the University of Minnesota’s UFORE Nursery
  • Volunteers needed for tree planting in Golden Valley

Spring 2017

  • Welcome to the newsletter
  • Celebrate Arbor Day
  • Volunteers learn to care for trees
  • Hennepin County's gravel-bed nursery
  • Emerald ash borer outreach
  • Upcoming events

Contribute to future editions

If you are interested in contributing, please send updates to Jen Kullgren at The deadline for the summer edition will be June 15.

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