Scenarios for Using GIS
This section presents scenarios for how GIS can be progressively used in a land trust
There is no single approach to setting up GIS in a land trust. But here are four potential stages that land trusts usually go through in adopting GIS. Each addresses different levels of the GIS Best Practices noted elsewhere on this site.
- Just maps: Many if not most land trusts use paper maps to identify and track geographic information. USGS quad maps and other base maps are common "technology" for this work. These types of maps can be very good foundations for later use of GIS, if care is used to draw holding and property lines accurately. When doing this, be sure to keep the maps stored flat if it all possible, and work with a fairly hard pencil or a permanent marker that does not bleed too much. When starting a GIS, these maps can be fairly easily digitized, creating polygons of your holdings. Do try to assign a unique number to each holding and use a spreadsheet program to keep track of all your properties. LEARN MORE about basic data practices...
- Basic GIS: Identify one person who will be your main GIS user and seek out introductory training for him or her. Develop a plan of what you will do with GIS during the first six months to a year of using it. Select and install GIS software on a recently-made computer. Build a project and data file structure and bring in available data. Begin developing your first projects - best choice is a single property map, then a regional map. Be sure to develop an effective design template for maps you make. Grow your use of GIS from this point on.
- Advanced GIS: Once you've actively used GIS for six months or more, you'll probably want to move ahead with it. Develop a plan for what you intend to do, focusing closely on the outcomes you want to create -- not the data you will acquire or the technology you'll use. Test these outcomes against their costs and benefits, engaging a more knowledgeable GIS person or consultant to work it through with you (it'll be money well spent). More advanced GIS for land trusts usually involves doing priority planning, project analysis, stewardship or supporting fundraising and communications with effective maps and data (LEARN MORE about advanced GIS projects...). To do this work really requires at least a half-time person available to work with GIS for extended periods of time (more than a year), and/or a consultant.
- Expert GIS: Those land trusts that get to the expert level of GIS use are often very self-directed. They have discovered a significant ongoing value to using GIS. Typically they have a full time staffer or more devoted to GIS and often use consultants as partners. In addition to maintaining an effective geodatabase of their holdings they track all ownerships in their area of concern, and they do advanced analyses of conservation values (biodiversity), threats (development pressures, etc.) and landowner potential (tax record analysis, sometimes linked with GIS proximity analyses). They have excellent display maps and may use web GIS to show the lands in their area. They use GIS to monitor easements, and to support fundraising and outreach.
What Does It Cost?
The following table provides illustrative costs of the scenarios described above - these figures are only broad guidelines. Salary levels will vary tremendously and important factors like office space, utilities, overhead, etc. are not included.
|Basic GIS startup |
(part-time staff for 6 mos.)
|Basic GIS ongoing (half time staff for year)||$18,000||$5,000||$3,000||$26,000|
|Basic GIS , volunteers||$0||$0||$3,000||$3,000|
|Advanced GIS (3/4 time staff)||$34,000||$5,000||$5,000||$44,000|
|Expert GIS (full time staff+)||$60,000||$10,000||$8,000||$78,000|
*Staff costs will vary greatly depending on region of U.S. and skill level/motivation factors
**Consulting here is for assisting staff with setting up and using GIS system, not for major GIS tasks
***Other includes computers, printers, Internet connection and data, but assumes software is donated and much data is acquired at no cost. At Expert level these items need to take account of computer system costs related to the larger organization but not shown here.
NEXT – Staff, Volunteers, Consultants >>>