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Tools, Links, and Resources

Helpful Guides

Natural Resource Guide - DNR's Natural Resources Guide is a primer on natural resource based planning. Features guidance on natural resource inventories and assessments, open space, and 20 project profiles of how Minnesota communities have collected and used natural resource information. Natural resource guide brochure and natural resource guide companion CD-rom content available online.

Using Natural Resource Information in Comprehensive Planning - A companion to the Metropolitan Council's Local Planning Handbook. Answers eight key questions about incorporating natural resources conservation in community plans for development. Features case studies and a ranking matrix.

The Economic Value of Open Space: Implications for Land Use Decisions - A new report from Embrace Open Space. Find out, in dollar terms, how much Minnesotans value proximity to open space amenities, and how local governments should take that value into account in land use decision making.

From Policy to Reality: Model Ordinances for Sustainable Development - From Minnesota Planning. Offers suggestions to local governments about actions they might take to implement sustainable development goals, including economic development, transportation, housing, and citizen participation.

Open Space Planning Packet - From the folks at NEMO (Non point Education for Municipal Officials) - A set of fact sheets and model open space regulations, plus a manual on how to conduct a natural resource inventory. Check out the plethora of other fact sheets, soapbox editorials, research reports, and much more while you are there.

Natural Resource Inventory Data Layers

For local data layers (land cover, wetlands, hydrology, etc.) information in the Minnehaha Creek Watershed District, contact David Thill, Hennepin County Environmental Services (612-348-0124).

Minnesota Geospatial Commons - An internet-based spatial data acquisition site that allows users to download raw computer-readable data for use in their Geographic Information System (GIS), image processing system, or traditional database environment. Includes links to extensive and summary level data descriptions (metadata).

Natural Resources Digital Atlas for the Twin Cities Region 

Coming soon from the Metropolitan Council and MetroGIS. Provides six maps, some with as many as 20 data layers. Inventories terrestrial resources, aquatic resources, outdoor recreation, health and public safety, community character, and working lands. To learn more, contact Rick Gelbman, Met Council GIS Manager, at 651-602-1371.

Land Management Information Center - A comprehensive clearinghouse of data and mapping for the state of Minnesota.

Cool Planning and Land Visualization Tools

Google Earth - Combines satellite imagery, maps and the power of Google Search to put the world's geographic information at your fingertips.

EPIC Planner - From Admin Minnesota. Customizes EPIC GIS to meet the needs of local planners. This new GIS planning tool expands the core functionality of EPIC GIS to include a report and model builder, and also includes data sets tailored to local planning and a conversion tool.

CommunityVIZ - Provides GIS-based analysis and real-world 3D modeling that allow people to envision land use alternatives and understand their potential impacts, explore options and share possibilities, examine scenarios from all angles – environmental, economic, and social – and feel confident in their decisions

MapMaker - From National Geographic. Locate nearly any place on Earth, search and print historical, weather, and population maps, and more with this dynamic atlas.

Digital Watershed - Provides watershed-based environment information nationwide in the United States

EPA's software for Environmental Analysis - A variety of free interactive software on environmental topics ranging from water to hazardous waste.

EPA's Enviromapper - An interactive map that allows you to map features like surface water, water discharges, superfund sites, and air emissions.

Rare Species

Tomorrow's Habitat for the Wild and Rare - A DNR strategic plan focused on managing Minnesota's populations of 292 native animals whose populations are rare, declining or vulnerable to decline, or currently found at levels below those expected to ensure long-term health and stability. The plan focuses on species in greatest conservation need, nearly one-fourth of the 1,200 Minnesota's species that were assessed as part of the project.

Regionally Significant Ecological Areas Assessment - In 2003 the MNDNR Central Region conducted a landscape-scale assessment of the seven-county metro area to identify ecologically significant terrestrial and wetland areas.

Other Websites from Organizations with Planning Help

Embrace Open Space - A campaign to protect open space in the Twin Cities region, done through a partnership among local nonprofit organizations. Find out about Twin Cities treasures and how to take action to protect them.

Sensible Land Use Coalition - A community of land use planning, development and regulatory professionals from the public and private sectors. Their mission is to promote communication, enhance education and provide information that will encourage the development of public policy and foster a balanced approach toward issues affecting land use, development and the environment in Minnesota, with special focus on the Twin Cities Metropolitan Area. 

Minnesota Department of Natural Resources - Natural Resource Planning - tools to help communities and regions make land use decisions that reflect natural resource values.

Minnesota Chapter of the APA - A non-profit statewide organization of over 750 planning professionals, educators, local officials and planning commissioners who are involved in planning-related activities on behalf of state and regional agencies, counties, cities, towns, educational institutions and the private sector.

Metropolitan Design Center - An endowed center within the University of Minnesota's College of Architecture and Landscape Architecture that investigates how design can be used to make the metropolitan landscape more livable and sustainable. It examines urban design across metropolitan areas through projects, research, and education.

Minnesota Design Team - A volunteer group of architects, landscape architects, urban designers, planners and other experts in design and community development that has been helping communities around Minnesota develop shared visions for improving their physical and environmental designs since 1983.

LGEAN (Local Government Environmental Assistance Network) - The Local Government Environmental Assistance Network (LGEAN) is a "first-stop shop" providing environmental management, planning, funding, and regulatory information for local government elected and appointed officials, managers and staff. 

American Planning Association (APA) - A nonprofit public interest and research organization committed to urban, suburban, regional, and rural planning. APA and its professional institute, the American Institute of Certified Planners, advance the art and science of planning to meet the needs of people and society.

EPA's Green Communities Program - The Green Communities program, through a 5-step planning process, provides tools and information to help your community help itself become more sustainable

Smart Growth Online - A web-based catalogue of Smart Growth related news, events, information and resources. Developed and funded through a cooperative agreement between the US EPA and the Sustainable Communities Network, this tool is designed to advance public understanding of smart growth and how growth can improve community livability.