The Nature Pillar recognizes the County’s natural resources and the areas that reconnect people to nature through parks and trails. This Pillar is carefully balanced throughout the Comprehensive Plan to ensure the natural environment is brought to the forefront of conversations when making land use decisions. Stearns County’s commitment to this Pillar is further embodied in the following statement and goals.

Pillar Statement

Stearns County recognizes the inherent values of the natural environment and connecting people to nature. We are committed to providing recreational opportunities, while recognizing the value of natural resource protection, restoration, and preservation. This will require sustainable practices that balance growth between urban and rural communities.

  • Preserve, restore, and protect important natural systems and natural resources.
  • Ensure the reasonable and responsible use of the County’s natural resources, including land, surface and ground water, minerals, open space, wetlands, wildlife, and woodlands.
  • Recognize the significance of water resources in the County and ensure the creation and implementation of policies to manage stormwater in collaboration with land use and development.
  • Protect the County’s aggregate resources and provide for reasonable economic use of aggregate.
  • Partner with cities, townships, adjoining counties and state agencies to broaden the potential pool for park acquisition and improvement.
  • Provide park and open space areas throughout the County to meet the active and passive recreational needs of current and future residents.
  • Provide a regional trail system in order to support a variety of recreational activities, offer alternative transportation modes, and support tourism and economic development initiatives.

Examples of agencies responsible for Stearns County's natural resources:

  • The Minnesota Department of Natural Resources (MnDNR) is responsible for a number of natural areas and management of natural systems (e.g., public waters)
  • Four watershed organizations conduct planning and managing regulations and programs
  • Federal entities manage wildlife area, and the Minnesota Pollution Control Agency (PCA) oversees several regulatory areas, such as the National Pollution Discharge Elimination System (NPDES) permits for most development activities
  • The County has statutory responsibility for completing and implementing both a Water Plan and a Solid Waste Management Plan

Natural Resource Framework

A Natural Resource Manual was developed to help inform the Comprehensive Plan’s update, while informing the focus areas discussed throughout this Pillar. The manual provides a snapshot of Stearns County’s diverse natural resources, parks, open spaces, and trails. It also provides a foundation for developing the “natural resource overlay” depicted in the Future Land Use Plan map.
When making future land use decisions: Planning decisions are influenced y a variety of entities that have some regulatory or planning authority for natural resources in Stearns County. The Natural Resource Manual identifies some of these roles and responsibility while providing resource links to learn more.

Connecting people to nature: Recreation programs, trail corridors and parks are all part of the natural systems of Stearns County. These connections are recognized throughout the Natural Resource Manual. The manual provides an inventory and assessment of the existing system, contextual information regarding complementary state facilities, and a framework for Steans County to follow in order to meet regional needs for recreation and open space and to preserve significant natural resources.

Implementing the Focus Areas: The focus areas in this Pillar represent some of the priorities discovered throughout the planning process. There fore, it is important to note they are not all-encompassing when considering the range of environmental concerns and recreational needs facing our future.

Stearns County will need to continue to evaluate policies, best practices, and regulations when making informed decisions about the natural environment and how we connect people with these resources

Focus Areas

Next Steps

The Comprehensive Plan can be implemented in a number of ways. On a daily basis, the document is used by County staff to review applications. The County Board, as well as other advisory commissions use the Plan when making decisions. It is used by residents and developers to understand the County’s intentions for the use of land, infrastructure needs, and planned park and open space improvements.


Leave a Comment

  • Get Shape Stearns updates delivered to your inbox