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Ecological Ranking Tool

Targeting conservation solutions to address landscape needs

The statewide ecological ranking tool makes it possible to identify areas on the landscape that are at risk for soil erosion, at risk for contributing sediment to surface waters, or are of high habitat quality. When used in combination with other tools and resources, local conservation staff can develop and establish conservation practices that address the site's specific needs and in turn achieve the greatest environmental benefits.

Environment and Natural Resources Trust Fund logoIdentifying potential costs and benefits of conservation practices requires accurate information about a site's soils, terrain, and proximity to water bodies.

This new tool helps local soil and water conservation district staff prioritize tracts of land to be targeted for conservation easements or other conservation practices. The tool consists of three spatial data layers:

These databases can be combined into an Environmental Benefits Index (EBI) to help prioritize local conservation activities. The tools do not suggest which particular conservation practices are appropriate, only which lands could be targeted for maximum benefit. More detailed information is available on the NRRI website: Click Here

Also available is an economic model for Conservation Reserve Program (CRP) parcels. This model predicts CRP re-enrollment vs. cropping based on soil productivity, current subsidies and commodity prices. Please contact Aaron Spence, BWSR GIS Specialist, 651-296-0660, for more information about this model.

The ecological ranking tool is managed by the Board of Water and Soil Resources and was developed in partnership with the University of Minnesota. 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).

More information:


Ecological Ranking Tool for GIS Specialists:

Technical training on a process for ecological ranking of parcels for prioritizing conservation activities across the landscape:

April 2011 Webinar provides an overview of the tool.

June 2011 Training for GIS Specialists

Description of Data Layers

Workshop goals


These are hands-on training sessions designed to be performed behind a computer along with ArcGIS 9.x or 10.x software. Participants must be comfortable using GIS systems. They should have experience using both vector and raster data with ArcGIS v9.x or later. Participants should also have a basic understanding of DEMs, raster processing, and/or elevation data. For those users who have not previously worked with elevation data, techniques are introduced through the training exercises.

Non-GIS specialists who want to learn what the tool can do can watch an overview webinar.

Other conservation targeting tools

This is not a comprehensive list. If you would like to see other targeting tools listed here please contact Aaron Spence.




U.S. Army Corps of Engineers

U.S. Fish and Wildlife Service

Minnesota Dept. of Agriculture

Maps & GIS Data

Interactive Map

Launch interactive web map

Download data layers


Minnesota Board of Water and Soil Resources

520 Lafayette Road North, St. Paul, MN 55155 | (651) 296-3767 | Fax (651) 297-5615 | TTY (800) 627-3529

An Equal Opportunity Employer

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