Minnesota Scientific and Natural Areas Program 
Strategic Land Protection Plan

Showy lady's-slipper, Visit the Wild Places


The Scientific and Natural Areas Strategic Land Protection Plan provides a multi-tiered approach for prioritizing lands to protect through designation as a Scientific & Natural Area (SNA). Secondly it will identify and prioritize areas for conserving biodiversity and rare natural resources.



Primary — Ensure that Minnesota's natural heritage is not lost from any ecological region of the state.

Secondary — Provide compatible nature-based recreation, education and scientific research opportunities.

Download the full document

SNAs protect

  • Areas of greatest biodiversity significance
  • Native plant communities
  • Habitat for rare species
  • Significant natural features such as geological formations

They are established through designation on existing public lands, acquisition, and leasing.

Gap Analysis

A statewide Gap Analysis evaluated which native plant communities in each Ecological Classification System subsection are protected within existing SNAs and a broader conservation networks (including publicly and privately own preserves).

Download the gap analysis

  • Over 125 of Minnesota's native plant communities have no representation within any SNAs.
  • Only 16% to 41% of Minnesota's native plant communities are protected by SNAs when looking at individual Ecological Classification System subsections.

Conservation Prioritization Results

  • The Marxan decision-support software was used to prioritize the protection of areas that support the greatest range of biodiversity the most efficiently.
  • The data produced a Conservation Prioritization Results map that identified high priority areas for biodiversity conservation.

If 10% of these high priority areas become SNAs, the state would be protecting approximately 325,000 acres or 0.6 % of the state. It would also mean designating 136,000 more acres of SNAs over the next 85 years. This might equate to an estimated 300 SNAs by the end of the 21st century.

In the next twenty years, SNA protection would be targeted in each Ecological Classification System province at these percentages:


  • 40% in the Prairie Parkland
  • 30% in the Laurentian Mixed Forest
  • 20% in the Eastern Broadleaf Forest
  • 10% in the Tall-grass Aspen Parkland

Conservation Opportunity Areas

At a regional (multi-county) landscape scale, the SNA Strategic Land Protection Plan describes Conservation Opportunity Areas to focus the work of the SNA Program, partners, and others in protecting biodiversity and rare features. These Opportunity Areas range in size from approximately 1,200 acres to 410,000 acres.

Individual Opportunity Areas

Candidate Site Evaluation Guide

At the small parcel scale, the SNA Strategic Land Protection Plan provides Candidate Site Evaluation Guide to rate each candidate site and to make informed decisions about pursuing potential acquisitions and designations. This Guide has been tested and used on numerous potential sites. It is a useful way of sifting out sites that are not priorities as SNAs.

Download Candidate Site Evaluation Guide

The future of natural areas and rare natural features depends upon conservation across all ownerships. The SNA Program and the DNR look forward to building relationships with individuals and organizations to implement this Strategic Land Protection Plan in conserving the state's natural areas and rare resources.

Input regarding the SNA Strategic Land Protection Plan is welcomed. Please email [email protected].

image: Minnesota Environment and Natural Resources Trust Fund logoFunding 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).

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