Conservation Technology Support Program: GIS Experiences from Prior Recipients

Pacific Forest Trust


Mission Statement: The Pacific Forest Trust (PFT) mission is to restore, enhance and preserve the private, productive forestlands of the Pacific Northwest, with a primary focus on California, Oregon and Washington. The continued existence and health of this most productive forest region in North America contributes to both the environmental and the economic well-being of the communities who depend on this forest ecosystem. The shared forest economies, infrastructure, ownership patterns, culture and ecologies make ours a logical, cohesive regional focus.

PFT has three core program areas, each of which complement and strengthen the other. The strategic approach which underlies all our work is the utilization of incentives and the power of enlightened self-interest to protect the forestland base and ensure its long-term productivity. The PFT is:

1. A unique regional land trust for working forestlands to provide forest conservation and management services to private landowners. PFT currently holds easements on 5,000 acres of forestlands.

2. Promoting the practical implementation of stewardship forestry -- forestry which encourages natural, native forest composition, age distributions, processes and structures -- on private forestlands. We accomplish this through providing research results, technical and management planning assistance, demonstration and education for landowners, resource managers and governmental agency personnel.

3. Developing policy initiatives and analyses to generate new incentives for -- or remove barriers to -- long-term forest stewardship.

PFT provides practical tools, information, analysis, and demonstration of the economic and ecologic benefits of stewardship forestry.

PFT works primarily with private landowners and forest managers, those who are directly responsible for making decisions on forest management and whose needs drive the decision-making process. Ultimately, PFT serves all users of forest products and services, including those with a stake in the health of fisheries, wildlife habitat, biodiversity, watershed functioning, clean water, carbon storage, cultural heritage and access to recreation. PFT is dedicated to building effective partnerships and coalitions with the various other agencies, organizations and individuals who share similar goals.

GIS Projects Grants obtained from ESRI have been invaluable for our California Private Forestlands Assessment and for our larger land trust projects.

California Private Forestlands Assessment: We are currently using GIS for our California Private Forestlands Assessment project and in our land trust work. The California Private Forestlands Assessment is a study designed to identify and document changes that have occurred on private forestlands in California from pre-European times to the present, and to assess which forestlands may be at risk of conversion and fragmentation from future development. Using GIS, we will show changes in forest extent, emphasizing changes in private forestlands in particular, based on three time periods: pre-European, pre-World War II, and the present. We have digitized Kuchlerís Potential Natural Vegetation of California (Map 1: Full size 33kb) to represent pre-European vegetation in the state and Wieslander and Jensenís (1946) timber type map to represent conditions pre-World War II. We are using a variety of sources to represent current conditions: California GAP analysis vegetation data is being used to represent current vegetation types, and census data on road and housing density will be used to provide an index of forest fragmentation. Digitized private/public land boundaries and a map of Timber Production Zones (TPZ) allows us to compare forest changes on private lands and TPZ lands in particular. Comparisons of forest extent will be completed for all forest types as a whole, as well as for coniferous forest and broad-leaved forests independently. (Maps 2-5 show comparisons of pre-European vegetation within the present for Sonoma and Mendocino counties.)

Mendocino County Forest Changes:

Sonoma County Forest Changes:

By documenting these changes, as well as by analyzing the policy context in which these changes have occurred, we can better identify options for conserving private forestlands. To date, we have digitized and geo-referenced all map layers and are now in the process of analyzing the data. Our final product will be in poster format and will be available from PFT.

Land Trust Projects: Our land trust projects involve establishing conservation easements on lands that are in active forest management. We work with landowners to develop easements which allow them to conduct timber operations on their lands, while maintaining or enhancing forest structure and function. Each easement project involves an initial documentation of current land conditions, as well as annual monitoring in which land conditions are assessed to insure that easement restrictions are being followed. Data compiled for each project include maps of the following: · topography · vegetation types · soils · land ownership (by parcel) · survey information (including GPS points) · general baseline information: roads, developed and potential development sites, streams · unique ecological features: fish and wildlife habitat, water resources, etc. We are using GIS for our larger conservation easement landholdings. With GIS, we can register current information on individual properties, thus providing a baseline for monitoring land conditions over time. Maps 6 and 7 show vegetation and soil type maps generated for an approximately 4,000 acre easement.

Text and graphics: Pacific Forest Trust
January 2, 1997

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