Setting a course for a sustainable landscape
I wanted to let you know about some tips and exciting new updates about how to access, use, and view protected areas within our South Atlantic LCC geography. Knowing where protected lands are is extremely important. One might think finding region-wide, accurate, and regularly maintained data sets representing protected lands is easy, but it’s not.
Each federal, state and private organization that manages lands across our area maintains their own data about the about those lands. When you add up all of those different organizations, it is a long list! It takes an enormous amount of effort to identify, contact, and receive accurate spatial information from each of these groups. Also, consider that some of these lands are protected, owned and/or managed in partnerships with multiple groups, making the accounting and communication even more challenging.
The Nature Conservancy (TNC) does a lot of amazing work and, luckily for us, that includes maintaining a database of secured lands that covers our entire geographic area. This database strives to include all permanently protected lands. TNC has recently streamlined the process for updating and maintaining this database. The 2013 Secured Lands database is available for use and review on the CPA, or for download from the TNC Conservation Gateway. TNC is also working on the 2014 update, which should be released in December of this year. Then they will turn right around in January 2016 to start the 2015 version. Please check out this spatial database and let us know how it is capturing the permanently protected areas that you know and love. If you find any errors, contact me or Louise Vaughn and we'll make sure that TNC receives your feedback so it can be incorporated in the 2015 version!
When you open a map in our Conservation Planning Atlas or check out Blueprint 2.0 in the Simple Viewer, you will see a “basemap” that displays underneath the other data you are exploring. The basemap is one tool that you can use to help orient yourself on the map. The default basemap is often ESRI’s ArcGIS Topographic Map. The ArcGIS Topographic Map has many benefits: it draws quickly when you zoom in and out; it does a good job of displaying reference material like states, cities, rivers and roads; and it contains many public lands. Unfortunately, it has some errors and misses some important protected lands. We don’t use this layer for analysis, so the errors don’t impact the creation or analysis of the Blueprint. That doesn’t change the fact that it is distressing to zoom into an area that you know contains something important like the Carolina Sandhills National Wildlife Refuge, only to find a big blank space! I recently used the ArcGIS Topographic Map Feedback site to report that this refuge, which is extremely high in value for many indicators and Blueprint priority, is missing from the basemap. I don’t know how often ESRI does updates, so I’m interested to see if/when the basemap is updated to include the Refuge. If you are ever tooling around the CPA or Simple Viewer and find an error in the ArcGIS Topographic Basemap, you can also try using the Feedback tool to report the error.
I hope this information helps you all get an idea of how we are both analyzing and viewing protected lands in your Cooperative.