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Prioritization


At some point you have to stop with the inventory, prioritize what you have, and begin to sort out what implications there are for conservation goals and implementation of those goals. Prioritization is critical for bringing knowledge into action. The following process is organized around natural heritage elements. While using this page, it may be useful to go back and forth with the Elements section to ensure you understand the different levels that we're operating on. Large scale elements such as core forests and connecting lands are different to prioritize than a discrete area that has a specific rare plant, for example. Contact Us for help in moving your process from inventory to prioritization.

  • Create a database

  • Assign Assets or Values

  • Rank coded elements

  • Create the final priority areas map and database

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Some suggestions in defining a process for prioritization. There's no one-size-fits-all way of doing this. But here are some ideas of different techniques that might be of use.

Create a database to accompany your maps. This might be an Excel file or an Access DB. On each of your maps, number or code each natural heritage element for each layer on the map. So look at your wetlands, number or code each wetland or cluster of wetlands in that layer. Then look at the core forests layer and assign a code to each big block of forest. Do the same for important element occurrences (Heritage hotspots), priority aquatic features and other layers (prime agricultural soils, rare natural communities). You'll also need to do this for corridors, linking areas that connect core forest blocks or other important heritage elements as well as wildlife road crossings. Enter these codes into the database. Create columns for values and assets as well as for justifications to be assigned later.

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Assign Assets or Values for each coded heritage element. In the Database record the assets present for each coded heritage element. Sometimes this is done by creating a subcommittee of people for each map. Bring in experts for each subcommittee and list the assets or functions (both natural such as a wetland that functions to improve water quality or cultural such as a forest area that's important for hunting). Note what a different process it is to establish and assign community values than it is to evaluate the ecological functions and importance of an area. As the assets are recorded in the database for each element you can begin to prioritize within each map layer which are the highest priority elements and which are of less importance based on the number of assets or values assigned. Corridors are often tough to prioritize since they may include a variety of habitats some of which are less suitable habitat than others. Even still, their importance must be recognized in the final evaluation.

Rank Coded Elements. Look at one layer at a time and establish the highest ranked areas within each layer. 

Now you can combine this information in a variety of ways. A simple co-occurrence model might just layer all the priority areas from each map on top of one another. Where it's darkest, i.e. where there are their are elements from a variety of layers in one place could be lumped into overall priority areas since you get a lot of different values expressed in a finite area. This is a practical approach but only loosely targets priority ecologically significant areas. 

Of course you can also make very sophisticated models that assign weights (priority) to the different priority elements within each layer and produces a single file output showing hotspots. Unlike the other, this model looks more closely at ecological priorities. Regional Planning Commissions as well as a variety of 

The final Priority Areas Map should show the highest priority areas from each of the layers used or the output of the modeling process. Justifications for why each area was selected for the final map as well as the values/assets that those areas were chosen with are critical to maintain as the final map goes public. The database provides transparency in the process and reminds participants of the steps taken in the process.

 

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