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A school of forestry was to be located within one of four counties including Bottineau, McHenry, Rolette, or Ward.  It was created by the State Constitution which was adopted by the people of North Dakota on October 1, 1889. By a popular vote held on November 6, 1894 Bottineau County was chosen and the city of Bottineau was the selected the location for the School. Legislation formally established the North Dakota School of Forestry at Bottineau in Bottineau County in 1897 (S. L. 1897, Ch. 129).  Much of the forested area in North Dakota is located near the central northern and northeastern part of North Dakota along the Canadian border. The purpose of the School was to “permit the instruction and training contemplated in the agricultural high school emphasizing those subjects that have a direct bearing on forestry and horticulture”. The School was to be known as the North Dakota School of Forestry and was to instruct coursework in the arts and sciences especially in the art and science of forest culture and was to include a preparatory department where all of the various branches could be taught as they pertained to a “good common school education”. It was under the authority of a board of directors who were appointed by the Governor and served staggered terms starting with a term of two years and eventually expanded to a four-year term.  Legislation included additional information concerning the organization and duties of the board (S. L. 1897, Ch. 129). 

The School began operations in January of 1907. In 1909 legislation created the office of Forest Fire Warden with the purpose of determining how township fire districts could be set up.  It included appointing district wardens and listing the duties (S. L. 1909, Ch. 125). In 1913 under the supervision of the State Forester, nurseries were established and legislation authorized the distribution of seeds, seedlings, and forest trees for institutions and land owners in North Dakota. The details concerning the operation of a State Nursery supervised by the State Forester on land owned by the School were listed along with locations for the propagation of forest tree seedlings and other seeds adaptable to the climate of the state (S. L. 1913, Ch. 170).  Also in 1913 the State Forester was appointed by the President of the School of Forestry.   Seeds and seedlings were distributed to citizens and land owners within the state for the cost of transportation (S. L. 1913, Ch. 170). 

In the decade that followed there was a lack of interest and the School became more and more a teachers training institution instead of specializing in forestry work. Governor Nestos vetoed the appropriation to maintain the institution and the School closed for the biennium of 1923 to 1925. It reopened on September 1, 1925 as a Junior College and offered programs specializing in forestry and horticulture. Other available classes were in the areas of liberal arts, engineering, business administration, and secretarial science. In addition classes in medicine, law, journalism, and education were offered as pre-requisite courses. 

In 1929 legislation increased the cost of tree production and distribution and required seeds and seedlings from the State Nursery be distributed upon payment of the cost of production, care of trees and seeds, and transportation from the Nursery.  However the cost of a tree could not exceed one-cent (S. L. 1929, Ch. 220).  

In 1935 legislation required the State Forester to accept, acquire, or lease land for state forests and state parks. The land was under the management of the State Forester as was the disposition of income from the land (S. L. 1935, Ch. 215). Additionally land under the management of the state government or political subdivisions could enter into agreement with the federal government for the purpose of establishing and maintaining shelter belts of trees and other suitable plantings (S. L. 1935, Ch. 225). In 1939 land owners receiving seedlings were to care and plant in accordance with instruction from the State Forester. Seeds and seedlings for live snow fences and highway beautification were distributed free of cost by the State Nursery (S. L. 1939, Ch. 243). Also in 1939 a tree bounty program provided for an allowance of a portion of the cost of plantings for landowners planting trees in hedge rows suitable for boundary lines along public highways or other areas of land (S. L. 1939, Ch. 244). In order to qualify for the program landowners had to follow the specific planting instructions.   

In 1941 an amendment related to distribution of seeds and planting stock and to the State Forester (S. L. 1941, Ch. 13). Also a purity analysis could be requested for a fee and the test was done by the State Seed Department located on the campus of the North Dakota State University (S. L. 1941, Ch. 14).  In 1951 the State Forester submitted an annual report to the Board of University and School Lands concerning the improvement of conditions of a forest, the number of trees cut and the amount of forest product indisposed, and annual expenses paid or income received. Additionally in 1951 the Board of University and School Lands was authorized to designate that any original grant lands not salable for ten dollars per-acre be considered for forest management with the State Forester responsible for such land (S. L. 1951, Ch. 124). In 1955 the State Forester was given power, authority, and jurisdiction in all matters relating to the prevention, detection, and suppression of forest fires outside an incorporated village or city (S. L. 1955, Ch. 162) and the Forester was required to organize forest protection districts as the most effective way to handle forest fires. 

In 1961 the duties of the State Forester included directing and coordinating the program for promotion of forestry to be carried out by a staff of professional foresters. This involved the operation of two nurseries, a fire protection and prevention program in the wooded areas, technical assistance for woodland owners, management of state-owned timberland production, and distribution of shelterbelt trees. In 1963 the law was changed allowing the Board of University and School Lands to designate any original grant lands not suitable for agriculture to be managed under the State Forester for the purpose of applying good forest practices in care, reforestation, fire control, and land management (S. L. 1963, Ch. 138). In 1968 the North Dakota State University provided administrative services to the School and it was named NDSU-Bottineau Branch and Institute of Forestry.
Legislation in 1971 (S. L. 1971, Ch. 92) required that the State Forester be appointed by the Board of Higher Education. Duties of the Forester included promoting practical stock, publishing and distributing information relative to forestry, and providing materials to farm institutes and other organizations interested in forestry. Additional duties were to provide recreational services within those areas and to charge a fee for such services (S. L. 1979, Ch. 101). In 1987 the State Forester was appointed by the Board of Higher Education and no longer had to be a faculty member on the staff of the School of Forestry.  Qualifications for the position of State Forester included being a graduate of an accredited school of forestry with a minimum education of a Bachelor’s of Science degree in forestry.  The office of the State Forester continued to be located in Bottineau.  With the need for additional officers the State Forester had responsibility to appoint district foresters who had the same qualifications as the State Forester (S. L. 1987, Ch. 87). Additionally the Commissioner of Agriculture had responsibility to inspect all North Dakota grown nursery stock  at least once a year and anyone who sold nursery stock was  required to be inspected, certified, and licensed (S. L. 1987, Ch. 88). In 1989 the Legislature gave the Centennial Commission authority to establish a Centennial Decade Trees Committee and provide uses for the Centennial Tree Program Trust Fund.  A special fund was established in the State Treasury known as the Centennial Tree Program Trust Fund (S. L. 1989, Ch. 27). The Legislature in the 1991 session created the Centennial Trees Commission and repealed the Centennial Decade Trees Committee and recreated a Centennial Trees Program Trust Fund (S. L. 1991, Ch. 573). Also in 1991 a reserve fund was created for the State Forester (S. L. 1991, Ch. 68). The account had to be kept in a special fund and be used upon approval of the Legislative Council budget section and within the limits of the appropriation.  In 1995 the Centennial Trees Commission was abolished by the Legislature in order to create the Centennial Trees Program Trust Fund administered by the North Dakota State Forester (S. L. 1995, Ch. 503). 

The State Forester was called the director of the North Dakota State Forest Service in 1995 (S. L. 1995, Ch. 70). The appointment of the director had to be approved by the Board of Higher Education and the President of North Dakota State University. The State Forester was to report to the President of the North Dakota State University (S. L. 1995, Ch. 70). The State Forester had responsibility for employing assistants and securing office facilities and equipment.   Other duties included promoting practical forestry not only to land owners but community groups, schools, and other organizations. Additional responsibility included implementing programs relating to forestry to encourage the development and stewardship of forest resources and providing assistance to landowners, producers, and public entities.  Additionally the programs were for protecting forest resources, preventing and suppressing forest fires, planting trees and shrubs, growing, harvesting, marketing, and managing forests by expanding and distributing seeds and planting stock for forests, windbreaks, shelter belts, living snow fences, and farm woodlots (S. L. 1995, Ch. 70). The State Forester and district supervisors were required to have a Bachelor of Science degree in forestry from an accredited school of forestry.  By statute the location for the State Forester had to be in Bottineau. The goal of the North Dakota Forest Service is to provide leadership in meeting forestry needs of the state through well-planned programs and cooperative efforts with appropriate agencies. Additionally the State Nursery was moved to 160 acres located at Towner, (McHenry County) North Dakota.  

The Legislature (S. L. 2001, Ch. 68) transferred the Centennial Trees Program Trust Fund to the newly created Trees for North Dakota Program Trust Fund. In 2007 legislation (S. L. 2007, Ch. 62) increased the amount in the State Forester Reserve Account, and removed the need to have approval of the Legislative Council budget section in order to use the  Reserve Account for  expenses as appropriated (S. L. 2007, Ch. 63). As of 2013 the North Dakota Forest Service has carried out various programs relating to community forestry, fire management, forest health, and rural forestry units. Other involvement included providing sustainable forest service programs and cooperative programs that are administered and implemented through a partnership between the State of North Dakota, the USDA Forest Service and many other private and government entities. These programs promote the health and productivity of North Dakota’s forests and rural economies.

 The North Dakota Forest Service owns five state forests. Two are located in Bottineau County including Turtle Mountain and Homen State Forest, and in Pembina County is the Tetrault Woods State Forest.  The Sheyenne River State Forest is located in Ransom County and the Mouse River State Forest in McHenry County.  A variety of tree types are found in the timberlands with the largest quantity of Elm, Ash, and Cottonwood.  Ponderosa Pine and Rocky Mountain Juniper cover less than 40,000 acres across the state.  Most commonly found trees and shrubs are Aspen, Birch, Basswood, Burr Oak, Box Elder, Cottonwood, Green Ash, Paper Birch, Chokecherry, Hawthorne, High Bush Cranberry, Iron Wood, Juneberry, and Red Dogwood.  Approximately 13,278 acres of state forest lands are owned and managed by the State. The State Nursery located in Towner (McHenry County) is the only State Nursery and it continues to grow over a million trees each year.  In November workers at the State Nursery grade each plant to size and then bundle or bale them and pack them with moisture-holding material and freeze the trees to 25 degrees in order to prepare them for the spring sale.


1888       Trees planted in 1888 by William Gardiner as homestead requirements under the Timber Culture Act allowed a settler 160 acres if 10-acres of trees were planted and cultivated for eight years. Nearly 8,000 North Dakotans gained title to 1,200,000-acres of land because of the federal program dating from 1873 to 1891. The Nowesta Grove was purchased by Frank Elliott in 1919 and in 1988 Elsie Elliot donated the Grove to the North Dakota Forestry Service.

1889       The North Dakota Constitution required that a School of Forestry be located within one of the following counties:  McHenry, Rolette, Bottineau, or Ward.  By popular vote the School was placed in Bottineau.

1897       Legislation established the North Dakota School of Forestry and it opened in January 1907 (S. L. 1897, Ch.129).

1907       The Legislative Assembly determined that the School be permitted to teach and train students in the study of agriculture with emphasis on subjects relating to forestry and horticulture. For a few years, 1907-1913 a growth of Ponderosa Pines rare in North Dakota, was designated a National Forest.

1908       According to the publication North Dakota Studies “On November 24, 1908, President Theodore Roosevelt declared the forest in twenty-two sections of Slope County to be the Dakota National Forest.  Reasons for ending the national protection of the National Forest included the high cost of taking care of the forest, seedlings failed to thrive, porcupines damaged the trees, and burning coal veins set grass afire but left the trees undamaged.  On July 13, 1917, President Woodrow Wilson signed a proclamation that ended the national protection of the area and the land was opened for settlement.”

1909       Legislation created the office of State Fire Warden and provided a definition of who could be designated as a forest fire warden within a civil township (S. L. 1909, Ch. 125).                                                                                                                                 
1913       The office of State Forester was created for the purpose of promoting forestry in the state and a State Nursery was established (S. L. 1913, Ch. 170).

1929       The State Nursery was to distribute seeds and seedlings to citizens and landowners upon payment for the post of collection, care of trees and seeds, and cost of transportation (S. L. 1929, Ch. 220).

1935       Legislation allowed the State Forester to accept gifts, acquire, or lease lands for the purpose of establishing state forests and state parks and to provide for the management and development of such lands (S. L. 1935, Ch. 215). Legislation authorized the State Forester and other state officers charged with the management of land controlled by the State to enter into agreement with the federal government and to make improvements with shelterbelts of trees or other plantings (S. L. 1935, Ch. 225).

1939       The State Forester could deliver seeds and seedlings free of charge to landowners who planted a live snow fence or plantings for the purpose of highway beautification (S. L. 1939, Ch. 243). A tree bounty or portion of the cost was given for planting or growing trees suitable for hedges in rows as boundary lines along public highways and other locations (S. L. 1939, Ch. 244). Legislation clarified the specifications for plantings and the dollar amount available for planting each acre in order to collect the bounty (S. L. 1939, Ch. 245).

1941       The price charged for seeds and seedlings from certain nurseries could not be greater than the cost to produce, collect, and transports trees (S. L. 1941, Ch. 13). The State Seed Department was responsible to analyze seeds for purity. There was a charge for the service (S. L. 1941, Ch. 14).

1951       The Board of University and School Lands was authorized to designate non-saleable original grant lands for ten dollars or more per-acre if suitable for forest management.  The State Forester was responsible for the management of the land (S. L. 1951, Ch. 124).

1952       The Smokey Bear campaign gained popularity as the mascot to encourage the prevention of forest fires. It originated in California in 1944 and brought attention to the fires that were being set.   However under the authority of the US Department of Agriculture the Smokey Bear Act of May 23, 1952 stated that commercial use of the Smokey Bear name and image was prohibited unless permitted by the USDA [P.L. 82-359].

1955       The State Forester was authorized to establish “protected areas” programs for the prevention, detection, and suppression of forest fires.  The State Forester could organize each forest protection district (S. L. 1955, Ch. 162).

1963       The law was changed allowing the Board of University and School Lands to extend any of the original grant lands found unsuitable for agriculture purposes to be managed by the State Forester.  Management included good forest practices in care, reforestation, fire control, and management of the lands (S. L. 1963, Ch. 138).
1971       The State Forester became a member of the State School of Forestry staff as designated by the Board of Higher Education (S. L. 1971, Ch. 92).

1979       Duties of the State Forester included laws for recreational services that were provided in the areas managed by the State Forester (S. L. 1979, Ch. 101).

1987       The School name changed from the North Dakota State University-Bottineau Branch and the Institute of Forestry to North Dakota State University-Bottineau. Changes were made regarding the qualifications for the State Forester and district foresters.  The office of the State Forester continued to be located in Bottineau (S. L. 1987, Ch. 87). The Commissioner of Agriculture was to inspect, at least once a year, the nursery stock grown in the state.  All nurseries or persons selling nursery stock had to be licensed, the stock sold had to be inspected and certified (S. L. 1987, Ch. 88).   
1989       Seed and seedlings from the State Nursery could be distributed at a cost of no greater the 110% of production and transportation (S. L. 1989, Ch. 32).

1991       A State Forester Reserve Account was established in the State Treasury (S. L. 1991, Ch. 68).

1995       A new section was added to the Century Code relating to the powers of the State Forester.  The State Forester was to serve as the director of the State Forest Service and all district supervisors under the State Forester’s jurisdiction were required to hold a Bachelor of Science degree in forestry from an accredited school of forestry and be subject to approval by the Board of Higher Education and the President of the North Dakota State University (S. L. 1995, Ch. 70). By statute, the location for the State Forester was in Bottineau.  The functions of the Centennial Trees Commission were transferred to the office of the State Forester.

1996       The School name was changed to Minot State University-Bottineau due to the affiliation with Minot State University.  The University President was to direct operations at both sites.

1998       The Dakota Prairie Grasslands Supervisor's Office located in Bismarck supervises large blocks of publicly owned lands administered by the Forest Service of the US Department of Agriculture.  

2007       The State Forester Reserve Account  increased and all moneys received for charges in excess of the cost of production of seedlings from the State Nursery were deposited in the account (S. L. 2007, Ch. 62). The State Forester no longer the needed approval of the Legislative Council budget section to use the Reserve Account (S. L. 2007, Ch. 63).

2009       On August 1, 2009, Minot State University-Bottineau (MSU-B) became Dakota College. The new name was chosen to give the School a unique identity reflecting the location, history, mission, and focus of the School.  It remained an affiliate of Minot State University.

2009       Legislation approved a new Chapter to Title 18 for a compact with other states to promote effective prevention and control of forests and fires (S. L. 2009, Ch. 197).


31914 School of Forestry, North Dakota.  Records.


“Intro to Trees: Towner State Nursery.” AAA Magazine Sept/Oct. 2013: page 49.
Laws of Dakota Territory.            
Legislative History of North Dakota State Agencies: Richard J. Wolfert State Librarian. State Library Commission, 1978.
North Dakota Century Code.
“North Dakota’s National Forest.” North Dakota Studies Vol. 5. Issue 1(2013): page 5.
North Dakota Secretary of State Blue Book.
North Dakota State Forester Website.
North Dakota State Legislature Session Laws.
North Dakota State University Forest Service Website.
North Dakota-USDA Forest Service Website.

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