Conservation Technology Support Program: GIS Experiences from Prior Recipients

The Heritage Conservancy

By Clifford C. David, Jr. Executive Director

85 Old Dublin Pike Doylestown, PA 18901 Phone: 215-345-7020 Fax: 215-345-4328 Clifford C. David, Jr., Executive Director

The Heritage Conservancy strives to preserve the natural and historic heritage of Bucks County and the Delaware Valley region. The Conservancy is undertaking a comprehensive historic review and documentation of structures in Bucks County, and it manages six historic sites.

Regional Initiatives : The Conservancy is currently the host organization for the Delaware River Greenway Program (a bi-state, multi-county effort) and is involved in the Delaware & Lehigh Canal Corridor Commission (a five-county program). The Conservancy is also a member of the GreenSpace Alliance and "feels that a comprehensive approach to open space, planning, and land management is essential."


Lower Delaware Wild & Scenic River Study: (Full size map: 458kb) Over the past several years, Heritage Conservancy and the National Park Service (NPS) have jointly studied the lower Delaware River corridor for designation within the NPS Wild and Scenic River System (WSR). The addition of GIS at the Conservancy was instrumental in several components of this cooperative agreement. One of the documents required by Congress when considering a river for WSR designation is a river management plan. The Delaware River Greenway Partnership, hosted by Heritage Conservancy, developed an inventory of locations along the Delaware considered "outstandingly remarkable" for their natural, cultural, and historic value. This inventory was used by the Conservancy to contract a consultant, Mapping Technologies, to develop an ArcInfo format basemap of the lower Delaware River corridor for use in the river management plan. Much of the data included in the basemap was taken from United States Geological Survey (USGS) Digital Line Graphs (DLG) and TIGER census data. However, the addition of the "outstandingly remarkable" features dataset, created through the Greenway, makes the maps we produced for the river management plan the authoritative guide to the valuable resources deserving of protection along the Delaware. The cost of GIS, both hardware and software, makes this technology prohibitively expensive for use by local municipalities. Heritage Conservancy has attempted to alleviate this burden and provide the municipalities along the river corridor with some sophisticated map products created from the river management plan. The (insert # of maps made for project) municipality maps produced, selected sample copies are attached at the end of this report, serve as land-planning documents which provide local government with a spatial inventory of local roads, municipal boundaries, and significant natural, cultural, and historic resources. An International Countryside Exchange program is being planned through Heritage Conservancy and NPS cooperative agreement for a portion of the Lower Delaware River corridor. To facilitate the public outreach portion of the Exchange, presentation maps of the study area were developed through our GIS. These maps were also used to create brochures for public distribution.

Neshaminy Creek Management Plan: In January of 1996, we were awarded a Rivers Conservation grant from the State of Pennsylvania to develop an analytical model of stream corridor development along a portion of the Neshaminy Creek in Bucks County. This plan is developing recommendations for local governments and land owners to aid in protecting the stream corridor, increase buffer areas, reduce flooding and erosion, and provide other land use recommendations. We were given this award in part because of the name-recognition our organization has within the region for land conservation and also because the technical capabilities that GIS offers put us on equal footing with competing consulting firms. Data coverages documenting stream locations, major roads, generalized zoning, and land use were collected from a variety of sources, including the county planning commission and participating municipalities. Since the size of the study area dictated that we map at a large scale (1:24000), this project has also seen some unique experiments in data collection methods as we attempt to tailor existing data to our scale requirements. We had a local pilot fly us over the study area and used the photographs from this flight to generate linework for updating a land use coverage. The lines were georeferenced to a USGS topographic quadrangle and then digitized. We equipped a local Environmental Advisory Committee (EAC) with a bundle of USGS topographic quadrangles and digitized the field notes they took recording creekside vegetation and stream bank erosion. The final stage of this project is currently underway, the creation of an analytical model which will utilize 'McHarg-ian' spatial overlay analysis. In this respect, the addition of GIS has automated many of the tasks normally too time-consuming to consider accomplishing with traditional cartographic methods.

In addition to these projects, we have also used and are using the GIS 'toolbox' for other projects. In January of 1996, Heritage Conservancy was awarded a $10,000 Greenlinks Grant from the Mercer-Somerset-Middlesex (MSM) Regional Council in New Jersey. This grant will be used to develop a database of the conservation easements held by the Delaware & Raritan Canal Commission (D & R Canal Commission) to aid them in monitoring and maintaining information on the easement properties. We will once again benefit from the use of the digitizer as we transfer the location of the conservation easements from ortho-rectified aerial photos.

II. Heritage Conservancy's GIS Goals

In April of 1996, Heritage Conservancy was awarded a grant from the William Penn Foundation in Philadelphia to study the Delaware River watershed and bring together the many individuals and organizations that deal with environmental issues in that area. An important component of that program is to utilize GIS to inventory the greater watershed region and create some prescriptive models .

Thus, our GIS goals have been significantly expanded since our original proposal for the CTSP grant. They are as follows:

1. To investigate and identify available GIS data for the Delaware River watershed and serve as facilitator between the many private businesses, and local, state, and federal governments.

2. To utilize the GIS technology to inventory and analyze the environmental and cultural resources of the Delaware River watershed in order to help maintain the overall health of the watershed.

3. To continue the precedent we have set as a regional 'conservation-data' clearinghouse. We will continue to serve as a force-multiplier in the region by putting our cooperating partners in touch with the technology of GIS.

4. To establish a level of expertise in the field of GIS which puts the Conservancy at the front of conservation organizations in our region.

5. To utilize GIS for internal projects, including target-market membership development and inventory of Conservancy protected properties.


We have already identified and secured a number of projects that will take us into the second year of GIS to include the following.

GIS Partners in the Delaware River Basin Conference The Delaware River watershed is over one and a half times the land area of the state of Pennsylvania. Certainly, one of our main challenges is going to be adequately contacting the many different organizations within this region. A major emphasis of the upcoming year is to put together a Delaware River Watershed GIS conference that will gather together the many GIS users. Many organizations within the watershed continue to expend significant resources to produce data which has already been completed by another organization. In an effort to reduce some of this duplication, the Conservancy proposes to host a GIS users conference for the Delaware River watershed. Our goal will be to establish a dialogue between those of us working in the GIS community to limit this duplication. The mission of the conference will be to establish some cross-organizational goals for the watershed. We hope that out of this unique opportunity for dialogue will come some watershed-wide consensus for prudent conservation management.

Integration of GIS into Heritage Conservancy To date, GIS has been used by the Land Planning Department of the Conservancy for contract services. GIS can also benefit the organization's internal administration through innovative applications for membership development. In addition, more people in the organization may become involved in GIS as the Conservancy explores options for placing ArcView for Macintosh on the Conservancy's Macintosh server.

Bucks County Audubon Society The local Audubon chapter was recently provided ArcView by ESRI and is looking to utilize desktop mapping for migratory bird data. We have discussed possible ideas with them and look forward to future projects. In addition, the State of Pennsylvania is a pilot project area for the National Audubon Society's Important Bird Areas project. We hope to look into this as well and participate at some level.

Additional Grant Opportunities with Delaware River Greenway Partners The MSM Regional Council grant is an excellent example of how we can utilize our GIS for the needs of our many partner organizations. Heritage Conservancy will continue to research grant opportunities for these groups.


In summary, we would like to emphasize that Heritage Conservancy has taken the role of providing GIS to a great many smaller conservation organizations. Consequently, we must extend thanks not only from our organization but also a great many others for the GIS equipment our sponsors have provided us. In addition, the benefits provided from additional equipment will surely be shared by many here in the Delaware River valley region.

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Text and graphics: The Heritage Conservancy
January 2, 1997

Design and Layout: Environmental Systems Research Institute, Inc.
January 2, 1996

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