Natural Resource Based Planning

The Power of Planning

Wetland"Planning, when done well, is among the most powerful tools available to communities. A solid plan, based on good natural resource information, guides rational land use decisions, and allows the community to consider innovative tools for resource protection with fewer legal challenges to their planning authority. The plan also sends a clear message as to what the community values and wishes to preserve, and, if well crafted, results in few surprises to developers, local officials, or residents.

Natural resource-based planning is a process that puts the community's natural resource base at the forefront. By identifying natural resources at the beginning of the planning process, your community can determine where development is most appropriate. This way, communities can avoid the unintended consequences of the typical planning process, such as open space becoming the 'leftover' pieces, water resources being degraded, and compromising community character."

- From "A Quick Guide to Using Natural Resource Information," MN DNR, 2004.

The Importance of Natural Resources to Quality of Life and Water Quality

A 2009 survey* showed that 35% of people said the most attractive features of the Twin Cities are its 'parks and trails' and its 'natural environment'. The next most important quality of life indicator was 'arts and culture' at 7%. This tells us that nature is overwhelmingly important to our quality of life here in the Twin Cities.

Without careful planning, population growth could cause communities to lose the open space areas and natural features that people value most. Knowing this, state and regional agencies have stepped up efforts to make natural resource conservation an integral part of comprehensive planning.

People enjoying a park

In addition to quality of life benefits, planning around natural resources can have water quality benefits. “Because natural areas provide free services like filtering stormwater and decreasing runoff volume, we see natural resource-based planning as an effective means of protecting water quality and important community resources,” said Mike Wyatt, District Planner. 

Recognizing that conserving natural resources has water quality benefits, MCWD’s initiated a Land Conservation Program. 

*Metropolitan Council, 2009 Metro Residents Survey