Your browser does not support JavaScript!

Using Spatial Analysis to Drive Reserve Design: A Case Study of a National Wildlife Refuge in Indiana and Illinois

Published Aug 17, 2010

Grand Kankakee Marsh National Wildlife RefugeThe goal of this project was to identify focus areas for future conservation that complement an existng reserve. Planners followed three guiding principles in designing the reserve: (1) focus on the most important remaining and restorable FWS trust resources; (2) emphasize corridors, particularly the Kankakee River, and connectivity among existing managed areas and areas of high resource value; and (3) enhance the effective size of existing protected areas by providing connectivity, improving the adjacent matrix, and protectingstat contiguous areas. In phase 1 of the analysis, focus areas were identified using GIS data available through the Gap Analysis projects in Indiana and Illinois; complemented by information from both states’ Departments of Natural Resources, TNC, and the North American Waterfowl Management. These focues areas reflect the initial, science-based step in narrowing the possible area of the Grand Kankakee Marsh National Wildlife Refuge (GKMNWR) from the watershed boundary. Four distinct protection alternatives were developed from a set of 20 Focus Areas. Identifying Focus Areas as the initial step in reserve design allowed the FWS to address both ecological and social concerns during the NEPA process.

Phase II analysis was designed to achieve four goals:

  • to identify parcels that more closely correspond to ownership boundaries within Focus Areas,
  • to distinguish those parcels with high resource values from those with lower trust resource values,
  • to discern concentrations of high resource value parcels.
  • and finally, to begin prioritizing parcels for acquisition.

As a result of these analyses using Gap Analysis data and infrastructure, and the C-Plan program, the basic design of the proposed GKMNWR refuge was established.

The Result

Overall, planners believe that both the Phase 1 and Phase 2 approaches produced designs that would greatly increase the connectivity among existing managed areas in the watershed. The implementation of a national wildlife refuge that could function as a component to connect a series of non-FWS protected areas represents a positive step for landscape scale biodiversity conservation.

Focus Areas aimed at specific landscape goals were identified and combined into suites of sites that address FWS Trust Resources. The greatest benefit of this process may be the existence of the information to coordinate and guide conservation activities among various organizations and landowners working and living in the watershed. Planners believe that these data shared among conservation organizations provide the information base to move beyond individual and sometimes conflicting goals for biodiversity protection. Organizations must, however, act cooperatively to implement the various pieces of a landscape scale design.


Clark, F.S., and R. B. Slusher, 2000, Using spatial analysis to drive reserve design: a case study of a national wildlife refuge in Indiana and Illinois (USA), Landscape Ecology, 15: 75-84.

Learn more