Statewide Ecological Ranking of Conservation Reserve Program (CRP) and other Critical Lands

Project Details by Fiscal Year
2010 Fiscal Year Funding Amount
Fund Source
Environment & Natural Resources Trust Fund
Recipient Type
Public College/University
Start Date
July 2009
End Date
June 2011
Activity Type
Legal Citation / Subdivision
M.L. 2009, Chp. 143, Sec. 2, Subd. 04g
Appropriation Language

$107,000 is from the trust fund to the Board of Water and Soil Resources to continue the efforts funded by the emerging issues account allocation to identify and rank the ecological value of conservation reserve program (CRP) and other critical lands throughout Minnesota using a multiple parameter approach including soil productivity, landscape, water, and wildlife factors.

2010 Fiscal Year Funding Amount
Other Funds Leveraged
Proposed Measurable Outcome(s)

Click on "Final Report" under "Project Details".

Measurable Outcome(s)

Click on "Final Report" under "Project Details".

Project Overview

An emerging practice called "precision conservation" aims to maximize conservation benefits by considering the value of lands in terms of the interconnected systems of which they are a part. By compiling and integrating multiple types of data layers and analysis that are available today, conservation professionals can use the best and most precise information available to identify, prioritize, and guide conservation efforts. The Minnesota Board of Soil and Water Resources, in cooperation with the University of Minnesota, is using this appropriation to develop the foundation for the practice of "precision conservation" in Minnesota. Using factors such as soil productivity, landscape, water, wildlife, and other relevant natural resource factors, this effort is identifying, ranking, and mapping the ecological value of critical and environmentally sensitive lands throughout the state. This information will then be available to help prioritize conservation efforts.

Other funds allocated to this project include:
M.L. 2007, Chp. 30, Sec. 2, Subd. 7 "Emerging Issues Account" - $13,000 (completion date for this portion is 6/30/2009)

M.L. 2008, Chp. 367, Sec. 2, Subd. 07 "Emerging Issues Account" - $155,000 (completion date for this portion is 6/30/2010)

Overall Project Outcomes and Results
To allocate scarce fiscal resources to natural resource programs, identifying the location and ranking the ecological value of critical lands is important. Using parameters of soil productivity, soil erosion risk, water quality risk, and habitat quality, an ecological ranking tool was developed. An economic model was also incorporated to analyze CRP (Conservation Reserve Program) parcels and determine the likelihood of contract renewal given anticipated crop prices and land quality. A parameter for soil erosion risk was developed using several factors from the Universal Soil Loss Equation. To identify lands posing a risk to water quality, or lands that are most likely to contribute overland runoff to surface waters, terrain analysis was used. Runoff rankings from terrain analysis were then integrated with a proximity analysis of surface water features based on DNR 24k surface water data. A parameter for habitat quality was derived from an update to the work done as part of the Minnesota Conservation and Preservation Plan (LCCMR, 2008). Combining the data sets therein, and assessing them with a "weight of evidence" approach, produced a ranking of wildlife quality. These several parameters were combined into an environmental benefits index (EBI). High EBI translates into high risk. Therefore, a high EBI score implies a site has a high value for conservation. CRP or other parcels deemed critical for conservation can be assessed simultaneously on the basis of multiple ecological benefits. The EBI tool has demonstrated utility as users can establish thresholds for EBI values based on program goals and amount of funding available.

Project Results Use and Dissemination
The EBI was first presented to a general audience through a WEBINAR. A follow-up technical training session, geared to GIS professionals, was developed. The technical sessions were attended by 42 conservation professionals representing local units of government, state and federal agencies, non-governmental organizations, and private companies.

A majority (70%) of participants at the three technical training sessions said they planned to use the ecological ranking tool in their professional work. Given the diverse professional affiliations of the participants, their active involvement in conservation planning and delivery, and their connection to the network of natural resource professionals, it is likely that the Ecological Ranking Tool will be integrated into many conservation activities throughout Minnesota.

Presentations of the project and project results were provided to the LCCMR, Lessard-Sams Outdoor Heritage Council and the Board of Water and Soil Resources.

A final report was prepared. The report describes all results in more detail and includes maps and graphics and suggestions for use. A website was established by the Board of Water and Soil Resources that provides an overview of the ranking methodology. The BWSR website also includes links to an interactive ranking tool (located at the University of Minnesota, Natural Resources Research Institute (NRRI) and the final report, which is available in downloadable format.

Project Publication:
Statewide Ranking of Ecological Value of CRP and other Critical Lands

Project Details
Project Manager
First Name
Last Name
Organization Name
Board of Water and Soil Resources
Street Address
520 Lafayette Rd N
St. Paul
Zip Code