Assessing the benefits of ENRTF funded conservation easements


Assessing the benefits of ENRTF funded conservation easements

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This report and associated documentation, data, and software, are the products of a project to create a decision support tool to complement local knowledge of the environmental benefits of a parcel with information on how it compares to parcels throughout the state. Detailed local knowledge gathered in site visits is important for decision making, however, it is impossible to gather site-level data for the entire state. Valuable parcels will be missed without a perspective that considers all of the parcels in Minnesota. To provide a statewide perspective, we created 11 statewide metric maps that depict where individual environmental benefits are produced, and how their quality compares to the rest of the state. For example, to contribute to lake recreation, an acquisition must be in the catchment of a publicly accessible lake. Among these, land that contributes to lakes with higher visitation and that are more sensitive to increased runoff pollution have higher scores. The metrics focus on ways in which human wellbeing is influenced by the environment, such as providing recreation opportunities or protecting drinking water. We enable comparisons between a parcel and the rest of the state by using 40 acre public land survey parcels as an approximation for the scale that land management decisions are made. We scored over 330,000 privately held, undeveloped parcels on 11 metrics of public environmental benefits. The average scores of these parcels are displayed next to the scores of a proposed parcel so users can quickly see what benefits a parcel provides, and how exceptional they are relative to the average parcel. This information is useful in conjunction with local expertise; disagreement between the tool’s scores and local expertise is an opportunity to better understand how benefits are perceived, measured, and valued. See the expanded documentation for metric descriptions and more information on how the metrics were constructed. Download the decision support tool, which includes the metrics data, to score areas of interest defined by a shapefile. A web version of the tool is available at

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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).

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Noe, Ryan; Keeler, Bonnie; Johnson, Justin; Kilgore, Michael; Taff, Steven; Polasky, Stephen. (2018). Assessing the benefits of ENRTF funded conservation easements. Retrieved from the University Digital Conservancy,

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