Collecting the data is just one piece of the NRI process. Analyzing the information can give greater meaning to the inventory, help to determine if additional detailed inventory studies are needed, set resource protection priorities and identify recommended land use protection strategies. Here are some questions to consider:
Which areas in the community have the most important resource values?
One goal of an NRI project is to identify areas in the community where key resources are located. These may be single resources prioritized by the community, or they may be areas with multiple overlapping resource features. Identification of these resources can provide helpful information for land protection projects and land-use planning measures to ensure long-term resource protection.
To adequately protect sensitive resources, consideration should also be given to the management or protection of surrounding areas. Protecting the buffers associated with particular resources or using best management practices in adjacent areas can be equally important as the resource itself. For example, stream buffer protection can help to maintain stream bank stability, filter pollutants and sediments from runoff before it enters the stream, and provide shade and organic matter, supporting stream quality and habitat value.
Why is the resource important to the community?
Which resources are important will vary from community to community, depending on perceived needs. For example, water resources may be a priority for one community, while in another agricultural land may top the list. Identifying the value of significant resources can help suggest an appropriate protection strategy. Some resources, such as water supplies, are important to the health and safety of the community and may be appropriately protected through regulation. Others, such as recreational areas, may be more appropriately protected through fee acquisiton or voluntary conservation initiatives.
What are the threats to the continued availability of these important natural resources?
Determining threats to key natural resources may involve an evaluation of the impact that current land use regulations and land use trends are having on the resource, as well as economic factors, climate change, etc. Consider whether land use regulations are inhibiting or promoting the continuation of resource-dependent industries. What would happen if the resource was lost?
Are there natural resources identified that are important to other communities or the region?
Natural resources don’t respect political boundaries. Important resources such as aquifers, streams or ridgelines frequently straddle several communities. Protection of these may require cooperative efforts with adjacent communities or local watershed groups.