Conservation Planning

Ecological Summaries / Assessments

Ecological summaries or assessments provide a good overview of the ecological and biological features of a given site or region of interest. Ecological summaries are tailored to the needs of each client and vary in structure as a result. Many are based on very recent ecological and biological surveys included as part of the deliverable. Having current and accurate biological data is very important in providing the best available product.

Ecological summaries typically contain the following sections:

  1. general description of the site and surrounding landscape
  2. description of field survey methods
  3. results of field surveys (species documented and abundance)
  4. description of each natural community including associated plants
  5. summary of ecological significance of site
  6. summary of disturbances, threats, and management recommendations for the site
  7. a map displaying the different natural community types and rare species locations at the site

Potential Conservation Areas

Potential Conservation Area (PCA) analysis is a GIS-based analysis to help communities identify and prioritize their region’s natural lands. A PCA analysis can be done for a single municipality or for an entire region. The analysis is based on the best available spatial data as well as several key ecological principles such as: size, core area, known features, connectivity, land cover change, and fragmentation. This analysis was first developed by MNFI for Oakland County and has since been applied to numerous areas throughout Michigan.

Conservation Action Planning

Conservation action plans (CAPs) are based on the methodology promoted by the Open Standards for the Practice of Conservation (OS), and the Conservation Coaches Network (CCNET) (include live links). A CAP can be applied to any scale from an important conservation site to an entire Great Lake basin. This methodology is flexible, but there are five core steps that are typically addressed in every conservation action plan.

Five key steps:

  • Scoping (identifying the geographic area and key stakeholders, and defining the process)
  • Conservation targets and viability (identifying priorities, measuring their existing condition, and determining future desired condition)
  • Understanding and prioritizing stressors of each conservation priority
  • Identifying key strategies to mitigate stressors and/or directly improve conservation target condition
  • Determining objectives and actions of each strategy, and indicators to measure success over time

Green Infrastructure Planning

Green infrastructure planning is a relatively new method of planning that seeks to promote more efficient and sustainable land use and development patterns, as well as protect natural ecosystems. It is an interconnected system of open space, recreational lands, natural areas, working lands, which recognizes that physical linkage between elements is key to sustaining natural ecosystems and landscape processes.

It is also a proactive tool that provides a framework for development, ensuring that developers, citizens, and communities capture the cost advantages of location and create and protect community amenities.

Green infrastructure plans are based on the best available scientific information and typically consist of an integrated system of hubs (large intact landscapes), sites (smaller landscape features), and links (linear features that connect hubs and sites). To help advance this relatively new concept, MNFI staff developed two training modules in 2007 on green infrastructure planning for the MSU Citizen Planner program.

Scenario Analysis (NatureServe VISTA)

VISTA is a powerful spatial analysis tool that allows the user to manipulate spatial data across a landscape by turning data layers on and off, and giving conservation targets (i.e., water resources, wildlife habitat, timber values, wetlands, rare species) different weights.

Most importantly, it allows the user build different scenarios (i.e., roads, new development, zoning maps, timber harvests) to see what impacts each scenario will have on each conservation target. VISTA then summarizes these impacts into a report.

This tool offers several advantages. First, it provides a visual spatial representation of the groups conservation targets. You can see where the most important places for each target are located, as well as where the values stack up. You can also see where there is potential for conflict and measure that level of conflict. In essence it provides the group with an interactive spatial resource with a common language and platform for discussing different ideas and scenarios.