ESRI Conservation Program: GIS Stories from the field

The Ecology Center Inc.

The Ecology Center is a non-profit, public-interest conservation organization. Our staff works to protect biological diversity and ecosystem integrity, primarily in the Wild Rockies Bioregion (including Montana, Idaho, and parts of Wyoming, British Columbia, Alberta, Oregon, and Washington). We also work to pressure agencies to conform to environmental legislation, and to increase citizen participation in public lands management.

Activist Coordination and Empowerment: Because we recognize that dedicated people working for the areas in which they live are often the most effective advocates of ecosystem functionality, the Ecology Center is dedicated to helping grassroots activists work in their areas to protect and restore biodiversity and intact ecosystems. TECI offers varying degrees and methods of support for these activists, from direct grants of money to technical assistance or training.

In 1995, TECI continued a program began in 1994 to distribute funding to grassroots ecosystem protection activists. Mike Roselle and Kristin Nelson coordinated the donation of about $250,000 to grassroots campaigns in 1995 by working with donors and recipients to coordinate funding with local campaigns. With the beginning of 1996, Roselle and Nelson have converted this project into a separate non-profit organization, the Ruckus Society. TECI will act as the fiscal sponsor for the Ruckus Society until it receives independent non-profit status from the IRS.

...For the third year in a row, TECI taught conservation activists concepts and use of GIS in Missoula to help them incorporate GIS into their ecosystem protection efforts.

Russian Far East Programs: Since our first involvement with GIS in the Russian Far East in early 1994, when we set up a GIS lab at the Wildlife Foundation in Khabarovsk- TECI has taken steps to bolster the GIS capabilities of Russian conservationists. In 1995, thanks to funding from the Trust for Mutual Understanding and-through the Eurasia Foundation, USAID, and generous assistance from ESRI, the makers of ArcInfo software, TECI held a series of three GIS training workshops in Vladivostok, Primorye, in the Russian Far East, to train conservationists and scientists working on natural resource issues to use GIS in their work. We trained over 30 people in the workshops, and (check the GIS projects section) are now working cooperatively with some of the workshop participants on ecosystem protection projects in Russia.

Geographic Information Systems

At the Ecology Center, we use spatially organized computer databases called Geographic Information Systems (GIS) to bring about more scientific and ecologically sound management of our public lands, and to help keep more of our wildlands wild. In GIS, landscape information is converted to digital form and presented as a map. This allows people who do not have technical expertise to see more clearly the actual situations that all the numbers and data represent. We share our GIS capabilities with many other grassroots conservation organizations to enhance their efforts to help ensure the continuance of natural ecological processes on public lands.

The Ecology Center's GIS Projects

TECI is the site of all the GIS analyses for the Bozeman-based Roads Scholar Project (RSP). The RSP is evaluating the accuracy of the US Forest Service road closure program, as well as assessing road closure effectiveness. Since the presence of open roads adversely affects the quality of an area as habitat for large mammals, RSP intends to make sure that the road closure program of the land management agencies conform to road closures standards for species such as grizzly bear, gray wolf, and elk. TECI calculated road densities in RSP study areas using the "moving-window" methodology, then used these density calculations in habitat effectiveness analyses for species such as grizzly bear.

With funding from the Harder Foundation, TECI created preliminary habitat effectiveness analyses for grizzly bears in the Cabinet-Yaak Grizzly Bear Recovery Area and parts of the adjacent Idaho Panhandle National Forest. (Full size Yaak Decision Area map: 136kb).

Northern Rockies Ecosystem Protection Act: As in previous years, in 1995 TECI managed the Northern Rockies Ecosystem Protection Act database for the Alliance for the Wild Rockies. Each year, AWR submits FOIA requests to public land managers in the bioregion to determine incursions into roadless areas, and TECI incorporates the responses to the FOIA requests into the roadless area database for NREPA. Representative Carolyn Maloney (D-NY) has introduced NREPA into the 104th Congress as HR 852. TECI submitted plots of each roadless area for the bill to Congress.(Full size Northern Rockies Ecosystem map: 1055kb).

Citizen Participation: State and federal agencies like the Forest Service, the Bureau of Land Management and the Department of State Lands are obligated to listen to the general public when they are in the process of making decisions regarding the treatment of our public lands. Although agencies make occasional overtures to the public for feedback, citizens are often put off by the daunting prospect of sifting through volumes of agency jargon and maneuvering through catacombs of requirements and deadlines for public input. The staff at the Ecology Center help guide people through the agency maze, and help make public lands issues accessible to the general public.


Text and graphics: The Ecology Center Inc. January 2, 1997

Timothy M. Bechtold, Program Director > The Ecology Center, Inc., 1519 Cooper Street, Missoula, MT 59802 > 406-728-5733 phone 406-728-9432 fax >

Web layout & design: ESRI Conservation Program, January 2, 1996

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