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    Geographic Information Systems Lab

    Ecological Ranking of Parcels for
    Prioritizing Conservation Activities



    Minnesota natural lands face many kinds of pressures, from human development to soil erosion.  This project is designed to identify ecologically important land parcels, with the objective of more effectively targeting conservation programs to Conservation Reserve Program (CRP) and other critical lands.

    The conservation value of a parcel of land is based on several factors:

    • the soil erosion risk of the land based on soil and slope characteristics
    • the water quality risk of the land based on the shape of the land and its proximity to surface water
    • the habitat quality, based on the Statewide Conservation and Preservation Plan

    These factors are integrated into an Environmental Benefits Index - a score which represents a summary of the above factors.

    This site provides a mapping tool by which natural resource managers can visualize and interact with a high resolution map of the spatial data layers. Managers have the ability to specify the relative importance of habitat, soil erosion potential, or other components of the EBI, and view how the ecological ranking of parcels changes under different scenarios.

    The tool has several applications. It can be used to identify parcels of high conservation value within a county, township, watershed, or other area of interest. The ecological ranking can be coupled with an economic analysis to identify parcels that, because of their economic value, are likely to exit the CRP. This information can inform the targeting of conservation activities to best balance land conservation, surface water quality and economic objectives.

    This work is a collaborative effort between the Board of Soil and Water Resources and the University of Minnesota.



    Training for the Ecological Ranking Tool for GIS Specialists:

    Several hands-on training sessions are being held at various locations around the state. For times, locations and registration, visit






    Funding for this project was provided by the Minnesota Environment and Natural Resources Trust Fund as recommended by the Legislative-Citizen Commission on Minnesota Resources (LCCMR). This “Statewide Ecological Ranking CRP and Other Critical Lands” project is managed by the Board of Water and Soil Resources (BWSR). 






    Environmental Benefits Index

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