Environmental Review

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The Minnesota Conservation Explorer is a tool to enhance the delivery of Minnesota’s Natural Heritage Data and to automate the Natural Heritage Review process. This is a tool for the public to view and create maps of Natural Heritage Data for the purpose of conservation planning. Users can also submit a proposed project and request an automated assessment of potential impacts to Minnesota’s rare features. Go to the Minnesota Conservation Explorer

Program Activities

The Environmental Review (ER) unit within the Minnesota Department of Natural Resources (DNR) includes management, coordination and completion of the Department's statewide environmental review responsibilities.

Primary responsibilities of ER unit include:

  • Natural Heritage Information System (NHIS) reviews for identification of known rare natural features;
  • Preparing environmental review documents such as Environmental Assessment Worksheets (EAW) and Environmental Impact Statements (EIS), when the DNR is delegated this responsibility according to state rules;
  • Coordinating and managing DNR review responsibilities for other state and federal environmental review activities, including review of environmental documents and permits that are prepared by other government units; and
  • Providing DNR technical representation to the Environmental Quality Board (EQB).

The NHIS is the only repository for statewide information on the location of rare natural features. The NHIS is continually updated as new information becomes available, and is the most complete source of data on Minnesota's endangered or threatened species, native plant communities, and other sensitive ecological resources. This information is useful for determining whether a proposed development project has the potential to negatively affect rare features.

Environmental documents prepared and reviewed by ER staff provide information to the agency, other governmental unit decision-makers and the public about the potential environmental effects associated with a proposed project. These documents identify natural resources present at project sites, management implications for these resources, and ultimately, how Minnesota's natural resources could be affected by the project. The DNR uses information contained in the documents to recommend measures that better conserve natural resources while advancing project goals. State, federal, and local government agencies also use environmental review documents to inform permitting decisions.

The DNR recognizes that public participation is a valuable aspect of the environmental review process because it leads to better decision making. See recent projects and documents where the DNR is the Responsible Governmental Unit (RGU).

Project Reviews

For early coordination with the DNR during project development, project proposers are encouraged to contact the Regional Program staff where the project is proposed and consult the fee schedule for NHIS data. These initial contacts will assist project proposer in identifying sensitive natural resource features and considerations within the project area.

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