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GIS Support Center
The ability to create maps and analyze the information on them is an important part of watershed stewardship. Whether one is investigating wildlife habitat, land ownership, use, or topography, or any combination of those factors, maps are often the ideal way to accomplish the task.
In addition to showing how to get to a place, maps can reveal the relationships among any features that are geographically based. For example, an area where both steep slopes and soils prone to erosion occur is a situation prime for erosion. Showing both on one map makes it easy to identify each place where the two occur simultaneously. Once those places are identified, you might ask how many such places are within 50 feet of a tributary? Again, plot the tributaries on the same map and the map will show you all such places.
Hand drawn maps can support the type of analysis of the example above. However, the work is quite laborious. Imagine plotting all such regions in the Sheepscot watershed, which is 58 miles long and 8 miles wide! Thus, Geographic Information Systems, or GIS, have been developed to speed up the process. GIS automates the process of mapping and analyzing geographically related features (also referred to as “layers”). Much of the data used in GIS, such as the layers found in USGS topographical maps and various wildlife habitat layers, has been developed by the State and made available to all. Other data is developed using GPS, or by scanning, georeferencing, and digitizing paper maps.
Since 1999 SVCA's GIS Support Center has provided mapping and analysis services for conservation related projects, at cost, to land trusts, conservation groups and towns. Employing ArcView software, GPS and a scanner, the Support Center can produce maps up to 42 in width on its HP 5500 wide format printer, which uses UV ink to significantly reduce fading due to sunlight.
For land trusts, the Support Center has provided maps for focus area studies, strategic plans, delineation of watersheds, membership distribution, trails, conserved properties and in support of grant proposals. Analytical services have included drainage delineation, buildout, proximity analysis, habitat weighting and tax map digitization. The Support Center has digitized the tax maps of over 30 midcoast towns.
For towns, the GIS Support Center has provided mapping assistance for comprehensive plans, shoreland zoning and town features (trails, cemeteries, public buildings etc.).
In addition to providing a service that is difficult for land trusts and towns to duplicate in-house, the Support Center has helped the SVCA develop closer working relationships with our neighboring organizations and increased the efficiency of all our conservation efforts across the Midcoast.