We evaluated the effect of three different sampling schemes used to organize spatially explicit biological information had on the spatial placement of conservation reserves in Utah, USA. The three sampling schemes consisted of a hexagon representation developed by the EPA/EMAP program (statistical basis), watershed boundaries (ecological), and the current county boundaries of Utah (socio-political). Four decision criteria were used to estimate effects, including amount of area, length of edge, lowest number of contiguous reserves, and greatest number of terrestrial vertebrate species covered. A fifth evaluation criterion was the effect each sampling scheme had on the ability of the modeled conservation reserves to cover the six major ecoregions found in Utah. Of the three sampling schemes, county boundaries covered the greatest number of species, but also created the longest length of edge and greatest number of reserves. Watersheds maximized species coverage using the least amount of area. Hexagons and watersheds provide the least amount of edge and fewest number of reserves. Although there were differences in area, edge and number of reserves among the sampling schemes, all three schemes covered all the major ecoregions in Utah and their inclusive biodiversity. ?? 2003 Elsevier Science Ltd. All rights reserved.