To identify and prioritize natural areas for consideration as research natural areas (RNAs) on the Superior National Forest (National Forest hereafter NF) in northeastern Minnesota, we developed a six-step approach that could be applied to natural area selection anywhere. Our goal was to select a limited number of sites to represent the NF's landscape and local ecosystem diversity. We also sought to minimize management conflicts. The steps are: (1) review existing information to create a list of potential sites; (2) develop a scoring system and score sites based on attributes that assess “natural area” quality of sites from maps, data, and other office information; (3) list ecosystems represented by each site and review sites based on their quality scores and the ecosystems they represent; (4) conduct field evaluations to confirm ecosystem quality for as many high scoring sites as feasible; (5) integrate the information from steps 1–4 with regional and local guidelines for conservation goals, ecosystem representation, and standards for site quality; and (6) review sites to minimize management conflicts and to maximize ecosystem representation and document the findings. Even with limited funds, using the six steps, we pared down the list from 114 to 41 sites for consideration in forest planning. Managers later used results to select 11 of the 41 sites for RNA establishment.
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