An evaluation was performed by Nativescape for Van Buren Township, to identify privately owned, undeveloped parcels in the Township that exhibit sufficient natural features to warrant their inclusion into the Township’s developing Open Space Preservation Program. This evaluation scored individual parcels based upon their existing ecological potential for restoration. Using a geographic information database (GIS) developed for this purpose by the Institute for Geospatial Research and Education at Eastern Michigan University, individual parcels were evaluated, characterized, compared to established criteria and prioritized.

The highest scoring properties will have the highest potential to hold unique natural features, possess high quality natural areas, and be dominated by native vegetation. These areas may provide essential ecological functions like maintaining water quality and quantity, flood control, soil stabilization and improvement, travel corridors for wildlife, refueling areas for migratory birds, and resources for genetic diversity. Van Buren Township and Nativescape designed the other criterion used for the evaluation.

The goal of the evaluation was to quantify various site characteristics in order to rank the parcels for preservation priority. Thematic maps were composed from the criteria to visualize parcel rankings and the connectivity between parcels.