In 2003 DNR Central Region conducted a landscape scale assessment of the seven-county metropolitan area to identify terrestrial and wetland areas of ecological significance. Areas include places where intact native plant communities and/or native animal habitat are still found in the region and continue to provide important ecological functions such as:
DNR Central Region identified regionally significant natural resource areas using habitat models. (See the entire assessment methods.) Based on this coarse filter assessment, it is estimated that approximately 280,000 acres of regionally significant habitat remain, which is 15% of the total land area in the seven-county metropolitan region.
Wetlands identified and ranked by this assessment: isolated wetlands larger than 25 acres; wetland complexes larger than 148 acres with specific buffer requirements; wetlands over 20 acres in size associated with dry, tall grass; wetland forest complexes, comprised of wetlands between 1 and 10 acres in size adjacent to forested areas; and wildlife lakes at least 50 acres in size, identified by the DNR?s shallow lakes program.
About 52% of the 280,000 acres of regionally significant habitat, or 130,000 acres, included regionally significant wetlands and open water. Of this, 50,000 wetland acres fall outside protected park status. This suggests that 18% of regionally significant wetland areas require protection if they are to retain their high ecological significance.
Regionally significant forested areas comprise 33% of the total remaining natural land cover in the seven-county metropolitan region.
Grasslands (included maintained grasses) constitute 15% of the 280,000 acres of remaining natural land cover.