GIS Maps and Your Site

By Heather Esper|October 26, 2015

From simple visualization and spatial analysis to the integration of complex database management, geographic information systems (GIS) software (such as ESRI ArcGIS, Google Earth and LandScope) can enhance facility planning and management. For many companies, GIS has become an integral part of daily activities and can be used across a range of subject areas including ecology and natural resources, air quality, site investigation and remediation, and others.

Many WHC members may find GIS useful for visualizing and understanding their site’s resources, which may include potential constraints to development due to jurisdictional or sensitive habitat features requiring regulatory compliance or permitting. Through the integration of publicly available geospatial data and resources, the site will have the ability to identify and understand local features that can support their conservation projects (e.g., conservation easements, waterways, wetlands or sensitive habitat). In turn, the facility will have a broader understanding of the resources on their site and how theses may relate to nearby features.

Integration of GIS mapping and database management with WHC monitoring forms may also be useful for the following:

  • Invasive species identification, management and monitoring (in conjunction with monitoring logs or databases);
  • Recording locations of wildlife observations including nest boxes, bat boxes, scat observations, raptor nests, wildlife tracks, etc.;
  • Current wetland and other habitat or vegetation mapping;
  • Survey locations and methods (monitoring grid or meander);
  • Maintenance strategy depicted by method and location (for instance mowing versus herbicide).

GIS tools (both printed and online versions) can help individuals more efficiently manage progress and budgets at multiple sites. Furthermore, GIS tools can be used by individual facilities to showcase the benefits of potential wildlife projects on the local ecosystems and how they interconnect with the resources within and adjacent to a site. If other projects occur on site (such as remediation efforts or building expansion), GIS maps will assist in incorporating consideration of WHC projects into planning of these efforts.

How to Integrate GIS

For non-GIS experts, Google Earth and LandScope can be helpful visualization tools. For example, WHC members can locate their site, print off an aerial image, and hand-mark areas depicting WHC projects, locations for potential future projects, vegetation monitoring locations, nest boxes, wildlife observations, etc. With a bit more technical effort, smart-phone global positioning system app’s can export way-points that can then be shown in Google Earth. While hand-marked maps can be useful, they should be utilized only for internal purposes. If maps will be included in formal documents, it may be easiest for a manager to seek out professional assistance to create formal maps with ESRI ArcMap software.

Always remember that maps and data that include specific site information will be significantly more helpful and accurate than those containing regional information. Habitats vary significantly across regions, and it is essential to have a thorough understanding of the ecological resources located on site in order to properly manage them.

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