This paper illustrates a landscape ecology approach for land trusts undertaking conservation at the watershed scale. A conservation plan was created for the Grand Traverse Regional Land Conservancy (GTRLC) in the headwaters of Michigan's Manistee River Watershed (USA). Eight conservation drivers were devised to identify Conservation Focus Areas (CFAs) of highest ecological importance. The CFAs were ranked based on ecological importance, feasibility of protection and size. Parcels were ranked, totalling nearly 5000 ha, within the three highest-ranking CFAs in one key county. This approach is useful to land trusts trying to operationalize three distinct goals in conservation planning: to find areas of high ecological importance, to promote the landscape's spatial integrity and to delineate threats to ecological systems and processes.