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A Total Forest Management Plan
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The Potentials of GIS

I began work with computer mapping systems in 1969 before they were called GIS or Geographic Information Systems. The work is poorly labeled. There are computers needed to make maps but entire systems are needed - space, staff, computer hardware, computer software, statistical and other analytical packages, and plotters/printers ... and data of many types, and ideas. The emphasis of "geographic" seems misguided except that all data seem to have to have (or have access to) some geographic coordinates. The debate over the name seems wasteful. GIS is the code for that whole, large, expensive system. Herein I have made gross suggestions and have shown a few applications of suggested uses in

I have been critical of hardware and software sales groups for after the singular needful application, there is little further application of the system purchased. Expertise is easily lost to another project. The system, without an operator,languishes, wasteful and not seeming to fulfill promises.

There have been many applications of GIS and these are now regularly reported in the Journal of Forestry and elsewhere. Editors rejected early submissions since the papers seems to describe the system rather than wildlife topics.

The following are notes on potential uses for GIS work. By thinking of things (all things ) as systems, uses in one area can easily be duplicated for other areas. For example, a powerline corridor location procedure was turned into a trail-corridor location procedure.

Consider that everything is either a point, line, area, or volume and similarities in software applications become evident.


  1. Intensity of use (user counts) areas
  2. Recreational opportunities
  3. Reported problem spots (trash, bad campsites, animal attacks, thefts, vandalism)
  4. Use patterns radiating from a point
  5. Percentage of users by areas
  6. Minimum pathways between Designated points
  7. Lost-hiker locations with time-rate-distance estimates
  8. Area affected by road or trail closures
  9. Maps showing potential for trail erosion and compaction
  10. Viewscape maps from trail points (e.g., every 50 meters) and areas seen(cumulatively)
  11. Intensity of road or trail use (thus impact of closures)
  12. Suitability for different types of recreation
  13. Areas of use by recreationists (and thus potential disturbance to some faunal species)
  14. Suitability of trail reaches for hiking, horseback, biking, etc.
  15. Sampling and extrapolating trail use rates by seasons
  16. Areas of conflict between and among forest users
  17. Education and sign areas
  18. Changes in many of the above over time.

    The Fishery and Watersheds

  19. Ponds, lakes, wetlands, streams, rivers - reaches and shoreline segments
  20. Three-D representations of ponds and lake/stream cross-sections
  21. Water-surface area within zones of the shore (shoreline-fishing opportunities) adjusted to shore-line conditions
  22. Species maps (probable occurrence and fish size)
  23. Pollution areas with concentrations of each pollutant
  24. Erosion maps
  25. Runoff probability maps
  26. Zones contributing water to a lake or pond (by %)
  27. Storm water control potentials
  28. Distance-to-stream map
  29. Stream reach-to-reach links (adjacent and with same or lower elevation) Following pollution or migration potentials
  30. Distance from water map (for wildlife, and anglers)
  31. Potential flooding from a waste storage lagoon (Geospatial Solutions May, 2002, page 40)
  32. Ground water pollution potentials from slope and soil maps
  33. Flatness maps - assuming surface slopes of 6 degrees or more (greater than 10.5 percent) is of steep hydraulic gradient
  34. Pollution potential as a radius distance (a buffer zone width) from the water edge, the distance being proportional to the soil permeability rate (2.8 cm/hour or greater)
  35. Consequence to pond, lake or stream reach of modifying a land unit within a watershed, changing its "cover type" from A to B. See MS thesis of Steve Findley

    a part of an elevation image by Steve Brown, Univ. Montana -in Landres et al. 2001Three-D Representations

  36. Elevations can be depicted in three dimensions, but more useful will be presentations of computed values for each cell such as cubic feet of wood, tons of erosive soil, fire hazard index, water runoff, animal abundance, recreational use values, suitability or primeness, site index, estimated land value (dollars), or results of distribution of users based on a quota system.

    Trained Images

  37. Supervised classification is the fancy expression. Given that you have only a few samples from known spots, ask the computer to show you all sites that have approximately the same 10-20 characteristics. This may be the habitats of threatened species (as done by McCombs for the flying squirrel using logistic regression to estimate the probability of occurrence)

    Excluded Spaces

  38. Use simple logic with expert knowledge. You know the creature does not live in water (exclude all water map sells) enter a value of 1 for all of these cells; it does not live very near humans (exclude those cells and add this map values (all 1's) to the last map (you're adding the "known" exclusions, increasing in confidence and cell color darkness correlated with the growing number in excluded cells; it is known to live in relatively high areas (exclude all lower elevation cells - if not sure, make several runs with your 2-3 best estimates), exclude all highways, all mines, all powerlines, all non-forested areas ... then within a limited window, the area of concern for the decision. The proportion of the area excluded with each exclusion act can be calculated and graphed. The resulting area is usually quite small, (an hypothesis can be tested to compare its size to a priori estimated areas). Often the remaining area can be discussed and if impacts are hypothesized, then as much of the residual area as possible can be avoided by a developer (such as for a powerline).

    Regression Maps

  39. Simple linear equations exist such as

    Y= a + bX

    with a and b coefficients having been determined from research analyses using regression packages. By using the value of X in each map cell (for example the slope percent) then some other value (like Y) can be estimated for the map cell. The computer can readily create a new map with the values of Y in each map cell (pixel). Erosion potential maps can be created but they use several map layers and the equations have non linear components. These types of maps need to replace the past emphases on simple overlays (the hidden assumption being that each map layer value is of equal value. Weighting of layers (count this one layer five times!) can be done but that adds a human dimension that may not be computed properly and may not be representative of the appropriate decision makers).

    Fly Overs

  40. Part of many small modern GIS systems is the ability to make multiple maps and then to move among them quickly giving the appearance of flying over an area or landscape. Flying over a complex data-scape seems necessary to show optimum search strategies, the false peaks and troughs that give decision trouble, the constraint space, the risk zones. Flying over a terrain is now well known and often seen in hand-held children games.
  41. Workers need to "fly" through forest stands and especially fly through a stream, a lake, or back and forth through several reaches of a stream or river. Slow motion "flys" up and over an elevational sequence may be especially instructive for workers new to an area. Flying progressively through all aspects, all elevations, and all slope classes in an area with ancillary photographs should make an effective training unit for new workers to a refuge, and a large natural resource area ... virtually to every county within a region.

    Nearness-to Maps

  42. Water may be known for springs, seeps, waterholes, ponds, etc. These can be mapped. Water may not be present in adjacent map cells but water is available for wildlife, etc. A map can be made of water and nearness to water. The areas missing then can become of interest to managers trying to supply water to many species of wildlife. This can be formulated as buffer-zones around water or simply water cells and all contiguous cells.
  43. Similar areas can be contrived for low noise areas, areas likely to have free-running dogs, areas likely to have poaching, areas likely to have air-borne pollutants.

Landres et al. (2001) seem overly cautious about recommending GIS for wilderness management work. Large area work requires it. Not to become highly involved with it is proximal to mismanagement. Using GIS is a step on the way to improving wilderness and other natural resource management. It has to be pulled from a concept of maps and map pages and pictures. The results need to be in electronic form for the Internet and for sending to the field by wireless technologies. More than a system for making maps it needs to be an information storage system, a retrieval system, an analysis system, a updating system, and a prognostic system ... and, oh yes, occasionally a map printing system. It has to be seen as a unit of an information and education system,a communication system, a multi-media system. Importantly, most importantly over the long run, it is an alternative way of thinking about management for the whole can be seen and mastered and the future foretold ... and improvements made over time. They are a way of dealing with history, conditions (especially baseline conditions) and services, likely transitions, uses, threats (like exotic plants and insects or new mammal abundance like that of the eastern coyote), and the relations among these. They provide a work space for notes, observations, ideas, and plans. They prevent the loss of information as staff retire or move. They provide economies in training for the new staff person. Where questions in the past were never asked because the answer would never be available, now new questions can be aired such as:

Perhaps real scientists can never prove a negative, but the presence of a GIS and its potential use has stopped or greatly delayed proposals that would impact natural resource areas since the impact could be very well analyzed and the case clearly made not to approve the proposed development. In wilderness work, it can be used to oppose (or support) de-classification or land trades.

See: Robert Meese's (rjmeese@UCDAVIS.EDU) international species databases of The Information Center for the Environment (ICE), in cooperation with the United States Man and the Biosphere program (U.S. MAB), the Man and the Biosphere (MAB) program of the United Nations Educational, Scientific, and Cultural Organization (UNESCO), the National Biological Information Infrastructure, the U.S. National Park Service, and the Biological Resources Discipline of the U.S.G.S., has produced databases containing documented, taxonomically standardized species inventories of plants and animals reported from the world's protected areas. These databases (http://ice.ucdavis.edu/projects/biodiversity) contain documented, standardized species inventories of over 1,200 protected areas in ca. 130 countries and are updated monthly.

Energy companies, utilities, and major developers are usually looking for ways to prevent environmental damage and the related social and other costs. GIS can be used to create detailed environmental baselines and use them to prevent damage and to avert claims of such damage by making before and after comparisons. In 4/27/2005 a request was mad to a Wildlife Society listserve seeking advice about mapping software, not a full-blown GIS system but something a bit more affordable that shows names/locations of streams and lakes. The person owned Microsoft MapPoint and Streets and Trips. Locations of streams and lakes are very limited. Costco Today was then selling National Geographic topographic >software (http://maps.nationalgeographic.com/topo/). Another friend >recommended DeLorme products (http://www.delorme.com/). Correspondent suggestions were summarized as:

Mike Banach made the following recommendations:

* We use Terrain Navigator and find it very good, cheap, and easy to use.

* Even cheaper (free is good!) is the USGS's Geographic Names Information System. This may be all you need. The USGS geographic name link above is impressive. Once you find a site, you can click a conveniently provided TopoZone link. This is very handy.

John Crane recommended...TopoZone is a great on-line mapping tool that will give you the kind of information you say you're looking for. It's free, but you can subscribe to the Pro version for $49.95 a year if you need access to more stuff (DOQQs, detailed street maps, etc.).

Falk Huettmann recommends the GIS package ArcView.

My comments on some other packages.

* Microsoft "Streets and Trips" is not topographic map software, but (for an inexpensive package) does an outstanding job of mapping streets, directions, and locations throughout North America. Very fast and user friendly.

* Microsoft MapPoint is "Streets and Trips" on steroids. It integrates with Excel, so that a list of addresses (or GPS coordinates) in Excel are readily plotted on a map. I'm very impressed with this tool, though it appears to me intended for marketing products.

* National Geographic "Back Roads Explorer". This $29.99 product (that was the CostCo price anyway) has topo maps for all 50 states. These maps come on 17 CDs. You can get good copies of maps, but the user interface is slow and clunky. It claims to have 7.5' maps, but they are blurry. My hunch is that they want you to buy the 7.5' maps for each individual state (another $30 for each state).

New TIGER/Line Files now available with StreetCD 2004

With StreetCD 2004 you can easily access and export the new 2004 TIGER/Line Files street and boundary data for use in ArcView and MapInfo. With GeoLytics StreetCD 2004 you can effortlessly export boundaries, or you can map the geographies using with the product's built-in mapping software

GeoLytics SteetCD 2004 is fast and easy to use. All you have to do is pick the geographic layer, pick the geography, run and/or export your selection, and view the data, that's it! StreetCD has incredible functionality - it views and outputs data and maps into documents or databases.

StreetCD 2004 includes: Comprehensive coverage of the US and outlying areas; interstates, highways, major roads; local streets; census boundaries, school districts, voting districts; railroads, Amtrak stations, rail transfer facilities, airports; hydrology, rivers, waterways, lakes; landmarks, schools, hospitals, parks, religious institutions, shopping centers, office parks, cemeteries, nursing homes, jails, and more

StreetCD 2004 costs only $495 for the entire country. If you only want a single state, it costs just $249. For more information about StreetCD or to take a guided tour of this product, please visit the product web page.

If you want to order or have questions about any of these products,


Landres, P, D.R. Spildie, and L.P. Queen. 2001. GIS applications to wilderness management: potential uses and limitations. USDA For. Serv, Rocky Mt. Research Station, Gen Tech Rpt RMRS-GTR-80, Ft Collins, CO 9p.

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