Prioritizing Land for Conservation in Northeast North Carolina

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The northeastern coastal plain of North Carolina provides a number of irreplaceable values like habitat for wildlife, economic gain through tourism, and social value through recreation and aesthetics. New development in this region may alter existing undeveloped lands that are important to wildlife and the community. In order to preserve lands in the face of this threat, land trusts like the North Carolina Coastal Land Trust (NCCLT) work to protect lands from development in perpetuity. Due to limited funds and resources, land trusts must ensure projects they undertake are both within the mission of the organization and of high conservation value. Site prioritization schemes are a way to aid the decision making process when undergoing conservation projects. In coordination with the North Carolina Coastal Land Trust, this study uses a multi-criteria decision analysis and GIS site prioritization to identify parcels of high conservation value in 5 priority regions within North Carolina’s northeastern coastal plain. Parcel level prioritization analyses were performed in ArcGIS using a utility analysis and value-based framework to determine parcels of highest conservation significance. Criteria included in this framework were based on acreage, connectivity with other managed lands, biodiversity, threat of development, and riparian frontage. As part of this process, a GIS Land Prioritization tool was developed that (1) provides summary statistics of important conservation criteria for each parcel across any region of land; (2) allows for manipulation of the actual prioritization method, weighting of values, and point scheme so the land trust can prioritize certain criteria differently in future analyses; and (3) outputs a list of parcels and their associated conservation scores for each parcel depending on the point scheme and weights defined by the user. While the tool allows for any number of point schemes to be used, the analysis performed here uses an equal weighting method across criteria. Results indicate a range of conservation values for parcels in each priority region. The findings from this study and the GIS tool created can be used both proactively and reactively in conservation planning efforts and project decision making in North Carolina.





Chuman, Alex (2014). Prioritizing Land for Conservation in Northeast North Carolina. Master's project, Duke University. Retrieved from

Dukes student scholarship is made available to the public using a Creative Commons Attribution / Non-commercial / No derivative (CC-BY-NC-ND) license.