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Mainstreaming ecosystem services in state-level conservation planning: progress and future needs

Ryan R. Noe, Institute on the Environment, University of Minnesota
Bonnie L. Keeler, Institute on the Environment, University of Minnesota
Michael A. Kilgore, Department of Forest Resources, College of Food Agricultural and Natural Resource Sciences, University of Minnesota
Steven J. Taff, Department of Applied Economics, University of Minnesota
Stephen Polasky, Department of Applied Economics, Department of Ecology, Evolution, and Behavior, and Institute on the Environment, University of Minnesota


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Ecosystem services (ES) have become an important focus of the conservation movement but have yet to be mainstreamed into environmental policy and management, especially at the state and federal levels. Adoption of an ES approach requires agency personnel to have knowledge or experience in implementing an ES approach and metrics that link potential actions to impacts on ES. We characterize the degree to which ES considerations are taken into account in setting priorities for conservation acquisitions in the U.S. state of Minnesota. We assess two core dimensions of an ES approach: (1) multiobjective targeting and (2) measuring program benefits in terms of increases in human well-being. We assess the degree to which these two dimensions occur in statute and in conservation program decision making. We find that state statute provides clear support for an ES approach in conservation funding mechanisms. However, we find that many of the programs funded through those mechanisms have more traditional habitat-centric approaches. In contrast to statutory emphasis, water quality related metrics were not prominent. We recommend expanding current prioritization systems to include a broader suite of metrics that are linked to human well-being to further mainstream ES in Minnesota. These metrics can be generated from existing data and would allow program managers to better communicate the public benefits of conservation spending.

Key words

easements; habitat; metrics; policy; water quality

Copyright © 2017 by the author(s). Published here under license by The Resilience Alliance. This article is under a Creative Commons Attribution 4.0 International License. You may share and adapt the work provided the original author and source are credited, you indicate whether any changes were made, and you include a link to the license.

Ecology and Society. ISSN: 1708-3087