When Winona was established as a county in 1854, the land was covered with hardwood forests, brushlands, and grasslands. Much of the virgin forest was cut over time. Regrowth has occurred and today approximately 34% of the county is considered to be in forestland cover.
Healthy forests provide a suite of goods and services to the citizens of Winona County. Some of these goods have market value to landowners such as timber, firewood, and other forest-related products including nuts, berries, mushrooms, ginseng, and ornamental plants. Other services are free and provide public benefits. These services would include wildlife habitat, groundwater recharge, and water purification, flood storage, carbon storage, and aesthetic and recreational opportunities.
Winona County's forestlands exist on a landscape characterized by steep bluffs, karst geology, and a multitude of streams and rivers that flow through them. Due to the sensitive nature of these forestlands, the Winona County Comprehensive Plan has goals and policies that encourage the protection of forest resources and promote sustainable forest management.