Chart of the Day: Minnesota Land Use by Cover Type

When I see “land use” here on, it often means something like zoning: residential, commercial, etc. But taking a step back and looking at the bigger picture, you can also analyze the state according to ground cover (e.g. forests, water, farm fields, urban areas i.e. pavement).

Here’s a chart from MPR News and the Minnesota Environment and Natural Resources Trust Fund showing the latter type of land use in the state:

The author of the post, Cody Nelson, points out much Minnesota has changed since the European colonialism days:

It wasn’t always like this. In 1860, Minnesota’s landscape was about one-third prairie.

Today, a blink forward in human history, it’s about a third row crops — mostly corn and soybeans to feed all kinds of animals that aren’t humans. About 11 percent is grass, and not all of that is prairie grassland.

There’s one reason for this mass shift in land use: agriculture. Specifically, animal agriculture.

Urban areas, which seem to me to be a combination of the pavement and the grass categories, are just a small percentage of the pie here. Leave the “developed” city, and you find a different kind of development dominating the state: rows and rows of crops, mostly corn and soybeans. is a non-profit and is volunteer run. We rely on your support to keep the servers running. If you value what you read, please consider becoming a member.


4 Responses to Chart of the Day: Minnesota Land Use by Cover Type

  1. Anne White
    Anne White May 24, 2018 at 9:41 am #

    This is fascinating data, Bill. Is there by any chance a map of the state that shows the distribution of the different types of land cover?

  2. Daniel Hartig
    kingledion May 24, 2018 at 5:14 pm #

    Minnesota is a big state. It looks like about 5% of the surfaces are impervious. That is four Rhode Islands, two Delawares, or half a New Jersey of paved surfaces.


  3. Tyler May 25, 2018 at 5:15 pm #

    If you could look at just Minneapolis, would it be possible to project the impact of the 2040 proposed rezoning on the tree cover/grass of the city. Looking at the little sample pictures for Interior 3, Interior 4, etc…. I see a lot of building, a lot of sidewalk, and way fewer trees than those areas have now.

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