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New online tool shares Minnesota natural heritage data

The new online tool dubbed “Minnesota Conservation Explorer” will also automate steps in the Natural Heritage Review process for the state.

A new online tool created by the Minnesota Department of Natural Resources allows users to explore Natural Heritage Information System data for both conservation planning and identifying rare resources.

The Natural Heritage Review process consists of identification of rare biological resources to determine and avoid potential impacts to those importance resources.

The Minnesota Conservation Explorer also lets registered users submit information about proposed projects and request an automated assessment of potential impacts to Minnesota’s rare features, such as ecologically significant areas or state-listed species on or near their project site. This new service makes the review process simpler, faster and more efficient.

“The Minnesota Conservation Explorer gives users an easy way to view and explore spatial information for desktop site assessments, land use planning and conservation planning,” DNR Conservation Assistance and Regulation Section Manager Randall Doneen said. “This will be a valuable tool to state and federal agencies, local and tribal governments, private developers and consultants, and conservationists.”

The tool includes publicly available information relevant to Minnesota’s significant ecological resources. Users can define an area of interest and then create maps or conservation planning reports for that area. The public spatial information is free and does not require the user to log in or register.

Registered users can also access the Minnesota Conservation Explorer to request a Natural Heritage Review, which is a required part of the Minnesota environmental review process for certain projects. Using the tool for this service requires a fee and the review includes both public and non-public data. During initial testing, the Minnesota Conservation Explorer substantially decreased turnaround times for Natural Heritage Review letters, with nearly half of the requests receiving a response in a matter of minutes.

More details and help features are available on the Minnesota Conservation Explorer website.

Daily Planet

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