REGION 4 STRATEGIC PLAN FOR

GEOGRAPHIC INFORMATION

SYSTEMS (GIS) OPERATIONS

PREPARED BY

THE REGIONAL GIS COMMITTEE

COMMITTEE MEMBERS:

Jason Duke, Chairperson, Cookeville Field Office

Bruce Richardson,Vice-Chairperson, SC Coastal Program

Sara Aicher, Okefenokee NWR

John Beasley, Realty, Atlanta Regional Office

Jim Besley, Conway Field Office

Debbie Fuller, Lafayette Field Office

Paul Lang, Panama City Field Office

Brian Luprek, Vero Beach Field Office

Curtis McMurl, Chickasaw NWR

Doug Newcomb, Raleigh Field Office

Fran Phillips, Jackson Field Office

Alan Schriver, Tennessee NWR

Kurt Snider, Cookeville Field Office

Charles Storrs, NWI, Atlanta Regional Office

Karen Torres, Boqueron Field Office

John Watkins, Realty, Atlanta Regional Office

Tracy Watson, Daphne Field Office

Dale Yocum, LMVJV, Vicksburg, MS



Region 4

U.S. Fish and Wildlife Service

May 2001

MAY 2000 STRATEGIC PLAN FOR GIS OPERATIONS IN REGION 4

 

EXECUTIVE SUMMARY

Geographic Information Systems (GIS) in the Southeast Region of the U.S. Fish and Wildlife Service have developed independently over the last 10-15 years. As GIS continues to spread throughout the Region, it has become necessary for an organizational structure to be put into place to promote GIS and better manage the technology. GIS does not specifically fall under any one of the current FWS Program areas, as it involves aspects of computers, biology, cartography, mathematics, and decision-making skills to operate. GIS Professionals are multi-disciplinary and may be Biologists, Computer Specialists, Cartographers, Geographers, Bio-Techs, Ecologists, or a wide variety of job classifications. With more than 100 of the approximately 175 FWS Offices in the Southeast Region utilizing GIS, the technology is now in the hands of the majority. The Regional GIS Committee has developed the following plan for the improvement of GIS in the Region and has broken the first two recommendations into three levels of implementation with the current status quo being Level I. Recommendations are as follows:

1. Establish a Regional GIS Office with a minimum of a Regional GIS Coordinator and a Regional GIS Specialist. Designate, staff and equip four Area Technical Support Centers in Vicksburg, Charleston, Cookeville, and Vero Beach, with a minimum of 2 FTEs dedicated to the important technical support function.

2. Designate, staff, and equip Ecosystem Technical Support Centers at the following field stations: Athens Field Office, Boqueron Field Office, Charleston Field Office, Conway Field Office, Cookeville Field Office, Daphne Field Office, Jackson Field Office, Lafayette Field Office, Okefenokee National Wildlife Refuge, Panama City Field Office, Raleigh Field Office, Vero Beach Field Office, and Vicksburg Field Office.

3. GIS position descriptions should be adopted and appropriately graded for Region 4.

4. Maintain a decentralized approach to the management of GIS in the Region.

5. Establish a Region 4 Geographic Information Systems Users Group that will meet annually.

6. Designate a GIS contact person in every field station.

7. The Technical Support Centers Will Provide Support for ESRI Products.

8. Use Geographic Information Needs Assessments (GINA) to determine the level of GIS capability and support needed by field stations.

9. All Service GIS data will be collected in accordance with FWS GIS data standards with metadata.

 

Implementation of the above recommendations will help solve the majority of problems that exist with GIS management in the Region today. GIS has grown to become more than just a map-making tool. GIS is now being used to conduct analysis that helps the Service make quicker, better, and more accurate decisions in less time.

 

INTRODUCTION

Geographic Information Systems (GIS) have become an integral part of natural resources management due to their ability to perform complex spatial analyses that were not previously feasible, either economically or technically. A GIS consists of hardware, software, people, and procedures used together to manipulate spatial and/or relational data. Spatial data are any data that can be positioned on the earth's surface by a locational attribute. Because of the diverse nature of the USFWS and the strong spatial orientation of much of its work, a GIS can provide essential information for many products currently required by the agency. For example, biologists, environmental planners, and recreational planners at Ecological Services field stations can produce maps of habitat types, identify environmental factors affecting habitats, evaluate habitat restoration or enhancement options, and create coverages of biological inventories. At Refuges, biologists, foresters, and public use specialists can perform habitat mapping, record wildlife observations, determine vegetative change and acreage, predict fire behavior, evaluate recreational opportunities, and perform spatial analyses. GIS technology can help Law Enforcement offices identify potential sites to investigate and Fisheries offices can better evaluate locations for stocking. The GIS, as a database management tool, can provide information on historical trends in population densities and habitat distributions. Additionally, statistical and tabular information can be integrated into resource planning and other resource products.

There is broad consensus in the conservation community that GIS is by far the most effective and efficient tool to inventory, monitor, analyze and make decisions regarding natural resources, particularly at the landscape level. In fact, very few major research, analysis or management projects are undertaken without making use of GIS. Often GIS enables us to understand and analyze resources in ways that are just not possible without this powerful tool. For example, a GIS model could analyze all the wetlands in several large watersheds to determine which one may be important for wildlife habitat, water quality improvement or flood control. This information can then be used to guide field work and permit decisions and restoration efforts. Once the model is built and the data gathered, the GIS performs in hours what could take months or years to accomplish in the field or with paper maps.

GIS technology has been utilized throughout the Region by various programs for over ten years. Management of threatened and endangered species, contaminant issues, hydrology, and habitat manipulation have been assisted by this technology. Not all of the field stations have access to the capabilities of GIS, but most could benefit from this valuable management tool. There will be a continuing and increasing demand for this technology from field stations. The need to analyze and share data with many ecosystem partners provides another important impetus for expanding the use of GIS in the Region. A regional approach to GIS utilization is needed in order to ensure that dollars are spent wisely, manpower is used efficiently, and efforts in data creation are not duplicated.

The Director of the Fish and Wildlife Service (FWS) issued a memo in February 1993 directing the completion of a GIS tactical plan in each Region to guide major GIS activities over the next 1-3 years. This plan addresses the general implementation of GIS in Region 4 and attempts to provide direction and a general framework for the expansion of GIS applications in the Region.

The purpose of the Regional GIS Plan is to provide guidance for establishing a sound framework for support in the Region. The plan is not designed to force GIS into offices that neither see the need for it nor have the resources to utilize it. The biggest problem facing GIS users in Region 4 is the lack of coordination and support. Some of the major benefits to implementing this plan include the following:

1. Establishing a framework for technical support.

2. Establishing points of contact in the Ecosystem Areas and in field offices.

3. Providing a communication structure between GIS practitioners.

4. Reducing the duplication of effort between offices working in the same area.

5. Better documentation of FWS GIS data.

6. Quicker problem solving/analysis times with fewer hours of labor involved.

GIS OVERVIEW - GENERAL STATUS, POLICY, DIRECTION

USFWS

The primary mission of the U.S. Fish and Wildlife Service is "to conserve, protect, and enhance fish and wildlife and their habitats for the continuing benefit of the American people" (U.S. Fish and Wildlife Service. 1982. Refuge Manual. Washington, D.C.). The Service has developed numerous programs in order to fulfill its principal responsibility to protect migratory birds, threatened and endangered species, certain freshwater and anadromous fisheries, and certain marine mammals and their habitats.

There is a strong push within the Service to incorporate GIS technology into Service initiatives such as ecosystem approaches to management to help modernize our approach to problem solving. A National GIS Committee has been formed within the USFWS to address the following:

 

Region 4

Region 4 is comprised (December 1996) of a Regional Office in Atlanta, Georgia, 113 National Wildlife Refuges, 19 Ecological Services field offices, 26 Law Enforcement offices, 7 Fisheries Resources offices, 15 National Fish Hatcheries, and numerous specialized field/research offices. The Region manages approximately 3,128,036 acres of refuge lands and conservation easements in 10 states and the Caribbean.

GIS implementation in the Region has developed in a decentralized fashion, where stations having the interest and money have purchased GIS equipment. An informal outreach network of GIS users exists, but it is not well developed beyond program or area lines. Products created in one program are freely available to other programs, but methods for communicating the existence of the products are not fully developed.

The Regional GIS Committee has been formed to set standards, disseminate information, foster utilization of equipment to its fullest, and to facilitate the use of GIS at the appropriate level to meet station and regional needs.

Existing Capabilities in Region 4

When GIS installations were first surveyed in the Region in 1994, 22 sites were found to have some form of GIS capability. When the Region was surveyed in 1996, it was found that 48+ sites had some GIS capability. In 1998, over 75 offices had GIS capability. At the start of 2001, there were just over 100 offices with GIS capability. An estimated $305,000 dollars had been spent on GIS hardware and software by 1994. The cumulative 1996 total was over $650,000. The 1996 figure reflects decreased hardware and software prices, but still shows the significance of how many dollars are being spent on GIS. By 1998, the cumulative total was over $1 million. By early 2001, the total spent on GIS hardware and software had surpassed $1.5 million in Region 4 since 1993. It is currently estimated that labor costs are also about $1 million annually for GIS in the Region as a whole. It is imperative that the FWS implement a management strategy for GIS activities in the Region as the growth of GIS accelerates. The highlights of the surveys illustrate the spread of GIS in the Region. Selected fields from the 2000 GIS Survey follow this paragraph.

2000 GIS SURVEY RESULTS

OFFICE CONTACT PROG SOFTWARE
ACE Basin NWR Donny Browning; Larry Hartis RW
ARM Loxahatchee NWR Laura Brandt RW Arcview w/Spatial Analyst,AV3.2,Imagine
Alligator River NWR Tom Eagle RW
Archie Carr NWR Marc Epstein RW
Arkansas FO Jim Besley ES (1)A/I 8.0.2,(1)ERDAS Imagine 8.4,(7)AV 3.2(1)3dAnaly.(1)Spatial Analy.(1)Image Analy.
Asheville FO Mark Cantrell ES (3)AV3.2,(1)Spatial Analy2.0,(2)ArcExplorer 3.0
Atchafalaya NWR James Harris RW
Atlanta, ES Regional Office Charlie Storrs ES (1)Arcview 3.1,(2)ArcInfo 8.1
Atlanta, Federal Aid Torre' Anderson FA
Atlanta, GA (Beiringer) Honnie Gordon LE
Atlanta, GA (Wharton) Did Not Respond LE
Auburn, AL WHM Did Not Respond WH
Awendaw, SC Did Not Respond LE
Banks Lake NWR Sara Archer RW
Baton Rouge FRO Did Not Respond FH
Bayou Cocodrie NWR Jerome E. Ford RW
Bayou Sauvage NWR James Harris RW
Bears Bluff NFH Kent M. Ware FH
Big Lake/Wapanocca NWR Glen R. Miller RW
Blackbeard Island NWR Rick Kanaski RW
Blowing Wind Cave NWR Tuck Stone RW
Bo Ginn NFH and Aquarium Susan Y. Denham FH
Bogue Chitto NWR James Harris RW
Bon Secour NWR Robbie Dailey RW
Bon Secour NWR Robbie Daily RW
Bond Swamp NWR Carolyn Rogers; Dean Metteau RW
Breton NWR James Harris RW
Brunswick FO Robert Brooks ES
Cache River NWR Eric Johnson RW Arcview 3.0,Arcpress,FORS tools
Cameron Prairie NWR Glenn A. Harris RW
Cameron Prairie NWR Mike Hoff RW
Cameron Prairie NWR Paul Yakupzack RW
Cape Romain Larry Klimek RW
Cape Romain NWR Larry Klimek RW
Caribbean Boqueron FO Karen S. Torres ES ArcExplorer2.0,Arcview 3.2,Pc ArcInfo8.0
Caribbean Islands NWR Joe Schwagerl RW
Carolina Sandhills NWR Rick Ingram RW
Catahoula NWR Eric Sipco RW
Cedar Island NWR John Stanton; Donald Temple RW
Cedar Keys NWR Ken Litzenberge RW
Charleston FO Ed EuDaly; Bruce Richardson ES
Chassahowitzka NWR Joyce M. Kleen RW (1)Map Info,(1)Arcview
Chattahoochee Forest NFH Deborah Burger FH
Chickasaw NWR/ Lower Hatchie NWR Ed Rodriguez RW
Choctaw NWR Robbie Dailey RW
Choctaw NWR (?) Doug Baumgartner RW
Clarks River NWR Rick Huffines RW
Clemson FO Ralph Costa ES
Columbia, SC Did Not Respond LE
Cookeville FO Jason Duke ES 8 copies ArcInfo, 24 copies ArcView 3.2a, ERDAS, Blue Marble
Cross Creeks NWR Walter Neasbitt RW
Crystal River NWR Joyce M. Kleen RW
Culebra NWR Did Not Respond RW
Currituck NWR Ken Merritt RW
D'Arbonne NWR Mike Stroeh RW
Dahomey NWR Fred Broerman RW
Dale Hollow NFH Andrew L. Currie FH
Daphne FO Tracy Bush ES
Delta NWR James Harris RW
Denham Springs, LA Did Not Respond LE
Desecheo NWR Did Not Respond RW
Division of Realty John Watkins/Kim Eldridge FA (3)AV 3.2,(2)Spat.Anal.(4)Auto Cad Map2000i,(1)Blue Marble Geo.Trans.(2)A/I 7.2,ER Mapper 6.1,Paint Shop Pro
Edenton NFH Elliot A. Atstupenas FH
Egmont Key NWR Joyce M. Kleen RW
Erwin NFH Jack Jones FH
Eufaula NWR Milton Hubbard RW
Eufaula NFH Daniel J. Drennen FH
Felsenthal NWR John Stephens RW Arcview 3.2, PCGPS 3.6db2
Fern Cave NWR Tuck Stone RW
Fire Ecology FO Cal Gale RW
Florida Panther NWR Larry W. Richardson RW
Florida Panther Recovery Coordinator Did Not Respond ES
Fort Buchanan, PR Did Not Respond LE
Grand Bay NWR Jeff Twiss RW
Green Cay NWR Did Not Respond RW
Greers Ferry NFH Timothy M. Cleary FH
Grenada, MS Did Not Respond LE
Gulf Coast FCO Doug Fruge' FH Arcview 3.2 w/ Spatial Analyst 1.1
Gulf of Mexico Coordinator Did Not Respond ES
Harris Neck NWR Rick Kanaski RW
Hatchie NWR Marvin L. Nichols RW
Hillside NWR Tim Wilkins RW
Hobe Sound NWR Jennifer Tietjen RW
Holla Bend NWR Bruce Blihoude RW
Holla Bend NWR Carla Mitchell RW
J.N. "Ding" Darling NWR Paul Ryan or Jorge Coppen RW Arcview GIS 3.0a
Jackson FO Fran Phillips ES ArcInfo and ArcView
Jackson Project Development Mike Dawson RW
Jackson WHMO Bob Strader RW
Jackson, MS Did Not Respond LE
Jacksonville FO Linda White ES (1)AV 3.2,(1)Arcpress,(1)Spatial Analyst,(1)Image Analyst,(1)PC A/I 3.5.2
Jacksonville Project Development Did Not Respond RW
Jacksonville WHM Did Not Respond RW
LMVJVO & NBS MS Valley Res. Office Dale Yocum RW ArcInfo and ArcView 3.2
Lacassine NWR Kelly Hogan RW Arcview 3.2
Lafayette ES FO Debbie Fuller,Karen Soileau ES (21)Arcview 3.2,(1) Data Automation Kit,(1) Spatial Analyst
Lafayette FO Deborah Fuller; David W. Fruge' ES ArcView 3.2
Lafayette, LA Did Not Respond LE
Lake Charles, LA Did Not Respond LE
Lake Isom NWR Randy Cook RW
Lake Ophelia NWR Richard Crossett RW Arcview 3.2a
Lake Woodruff NWR Henry Sansing RW
Lake Woodruff NWR Wendy Lechner RW
Little Rock, AR Did Not Respond LE
Logan Cave NWR Carla Mitchell LE
Louisiana Wetlands Management District Kelby Ouchley RW
Louisville, KY Did Not Respond LE
Lower Hatchie NWR Randy Cooke RW
Lower Suwannee NWR Ken Litzenberger RW
Loxahatchee NWR Bruce Arrington RW
Mackay Island NWR Kendall Smith RW Arcview 3.2
Mammoth Spring NFH Linda Hobbs FH
Mandalay NWR Paul Yakupzack RW
Mann's Harbor WHMO Bob Noffsinger RW
Mathews Brake NWR Tim Wilkins RW
Mattamuskeet NWR John D. Stanton RW Map Info Professional 4.1
McKinney Lake NFH David R. Cole FH
Memphis, TN Did Not Respond LE
Memphis, TN WHM Did Not Respond WH
Meridian NFH Did Not Respond FH
Merritt Island NWR Ralph Lloyd RW (1)Arcview 3.2
Metarie, LA Did Not Respond LE
Miami, FL (Picon) Jorge Picon LE
Miami, FL (Tannen-Bepler) Did Not Respond LE
Millbrook, AL Did Not Respond LE
Mississippi Sandhill Crane NWR Jeff Twiss RW
Mississippi Valley District Forester Did Not Respond RW
Mississippi Wetland Management Fred Broerman RW
Monroe, LA Did Not Respond LE
Morgan Brake NWR Tim Wilkins RW
N. Georgia Law Enforcement SA Honnie Gordon LE
N.Carolina Sandhills FO Peter Campbell,Susan Miller WH (2)Arcview 3.2, (1)Spatial Analyst
Nashville, TN Did Not Respond LE
Natchitoches NFH Karen M. Kilpatrick FH
National Key Deer NWR Mike McMinn RW
National Key Deer Refuge Roel Lopez RW Arcview 3.2
Norfork NFH Kenneth W. Boyles FH
North LA Refuges Complex Gypsy or Russ Langford RW Arcview 3.2
Northeast Arkansas Refuges Did Not Respond RW
Noxubee NWR Richard Smith RW Arcview 3.2
Okefenokee NWR Sara Archer RW (3)AV 3.2,(1)SpatAnalyst,(1)ImagAnalyst,A/I 7.1NT
Orangeburg NFH Willie V. Booker FH
Overflow NWR Ruth McDonald RW
Panama City FO Paul A. Lang ES (4)Arc/Info 7.1.2(7)Av 3.2
Panama City FRO Paul A. Lang FH
Panther Swamp NWR Tim Wilkins RW
Passage Key NWR Joyce M. Kleen RW
Pea Island NWR Tom Eagle; Dennis Stewart; D RW
Pee Dee NWR Laura M. Fogo RW Arcview 3.2
Pelican Island NWR Marc Epstein RW
Piedmont NWR Greg Walmsley RW
Pinckney Island NWR Rick Kanaski RW
Pinellas NWR Joyce M. Klein RW
Pocosin Lakes NWR Wendy Donoghue Stanton/Jim Savery RW
Private John Allen NFH Did Not Respond FH
Puerto Rico FO Karen Torres ES
RTNCF Planners(satellite of AlligatorRiv D.A. Brown RW Arcview 3.2,MapInfo 4.0
Raleigh, NC FO Doug Newcomb LE (1)ARC/info 7.12,(1)Arcview 3.2a
Red Wolf Proj. - Great Smoky Mt. Nat. Pk Christopher Lucash; Barron Crawford RW
Reelfoot NWR Michael Stroeh RW (3)AV3.2,(1)Geograph.Calculator,(1)Deed Plotter 4.09,(1)Forestry Tools1.1
Roanoke River NWR Monica Miller RW (2)AV3.2a,(1)Terrain Navigator Map Tech 4.02
Sabine NWR Roy L. Walter RW
Sandy Point NWR Did Not Respond RW
Santee NWR Larry Klimek RW
Saraland, AL Did Not Respond LE
Savannah Coastal NWR Rick Kanaski RW
Savannah NWR Rick Kanaski RW
Savannah, GA Did Not Respond LE
Shell Keys NWR James Harris RW
Slidell, LA Did Not Respond LE
South Atlantic FRCO Ronnie Smith-Edenton Substation RW
South Florida FO Brian K Luprek ES (1)ArcINfo 8.0.2,(15)Arcview 3.2,(2)Spatial Analyst 1.1
Southeast Louisiana Refuges NWR Charlotte Parker RW (2)Arcview 3.1,(1)PCGPS 3.6d2
St. Catherine Creek NWR Maury Bedford/Charman Adams RW (1)Arcview 3.2
St. Charles, AR WHM Did Not Respond WH
St. Johns NWR Marc Epstein RW
St. Marks NWR Val Urban RW
St. Petersburg, FL Vance Eaddy LE
St. Vincent NWR Thom Lewis RW (1)Arcview 3.2
Swanquarter NWR John Stanton; Donald Temple RW
Tallahatchie NWR Fred Broerman RW
Tennessee NWR Alan Schriver RW (5)Arcview 3.2,(1)Spatial Analyst 2.0,(1)DAK 3.5.2
Tensas River NWR John A. Simpson RW (1)Arcview 3.0
Tybee NWR Rick Kanaski RW
Upper Ouachita NWR Did Not Respond RW
Vicksburg FO Linda McHan ES
Wadmalaw Island FRO Did Not Respond RW
Walhalla NFH Did Not Respond FH
Wapanocca / Big Lake Complex NWR Darrin Unruh RW
Warm Springs NFH Did Not Respond FH
Warm Springs Regional Fisheries Center Vincent A Mudrak FH
Washington, NC Did Not Respond LE
Washington, NC WHM Did Not Respond ES
Wassaw NWR Rick Kanaski RW
Watercress Darter NWR Tuck Stone RW
Welaka NFH Allan Brown FH
Wheeler NWR Steve Seibert, Dwight Cooley RW Arcview 3.2a
White River NWR Jeff Denman RW Arcview 3.2
Winter Park, FL Did Not Respond LE
Wolf Creek NFH James Gray FH
Wolf Island NWR Rick Kanaski RW
Yazoo Complex NWR Lamar Dorris RW Arcview 3.1
 

POTENTIAL APPLICATIONS

Mapping to record an activity and as a visual tool has been used extensively throughout the USFWS ever since the first acquisition of land at Pelican Island National Wildlife Refuge. The adoption of computerized mapping or GIS as we know it today has increased significantly over the past ten years. Not only are USFWS offices using this tool to make permanent records of event locations, bird and other wildlife observations, land boundaries, forest management compartments, prescribed burn units, and existing habitats and vegetation, they are able to take it a step further with spatial analysis. By examining simultaneously several data sets, spatial analysis facilitates the USFWS's ability to answer difficult questions such as the following:

Endangered Species and Critical Habitats

Wildlife Distribution

Hydrology

Law Enforcement

Wildfires

Contaminants

Public Use

Fisheries

Forestry

Invasive Plant Management

Archaeology

Realty

GIS is currently being used within all programs; however, many offices have not realized the full potential of this technology. The simple use of GIS as a visual tool, associating numbers and accurate locations, can be a powerful tool in illustrating a significant problem such as fragmentation of the landscape. The use of satellite imagery allows accurate representation of vegetation patterns within the landscape. Although many stations have been in existence for a long time, few have accurate vegetation maps. As more and more map layers and data sets are incorporated into the system, the more GIS will be utilized for management decisions. GIS is well suited to assist in database management at individual offices as well as ecoregion and regional levels. This facilitates data sharing across programs.

GIS is being incorporated into planning activities. Ecological Services has used it extensively in Section 7 and Section 404 permitting, and endangered species listing and recovery activities. Refuges should be using it extensively during their Conservation Comprehensive Planning process. Spatial analysis is critical in biological, forestry, fire, and public use reviews. GIS is an integral part of step-down plans covering the specific management of USFWS lands. Fisheries offices benefit from GIS while planning stocking efforts and examining success. Planning law enforcement cases demands being at the right location at the right time. GIS can play a critical role in identifying the most appropriate places to conduct surveillance.

GIS can be tailored to meet the needs of any scale project. Field stations deal mostly with detailed information associated with small areas on a day-to-day basis. Ecosystem Management Teams, Wetland Management Districts and the Regional Office are more oriented to larger areas needing less detailed information. Stepping beyond USFWS lands brings in partnerships with other state and federal agencies, non-government organizations, and private companies and individuals. Using GIS in cooperation with partnerships can add valuable information to the decision-making process whether it is for planning conservation easements, strategies for attacking wildfires, or increased eco-tourism within the local area.

The Service has adopted an ecosystem approach to management. This requires project areas and activities to be viewed as part of a much bigger system, at the same time incorporating individual project details. Data from refuges, Ecological Services, other federal and state agencies and private organizations may be combined, augmented, and utilized with data flowing in both directions. GIS has the ability to combine data from these various sources and provides the potential to increase efficiency, reduce costs, and understand resources at the landscape level.

The use of GIS will no doubt increase in Region 4 as the full potential of this technology is realized. It is rapidly becoming the standard for presentation of data and justification of decisions, making it imperative for the USFWS to keep pace with its partners in resource management. As Region 4 faces difficult environmental issues in the coming years, more offices will apply GIS techniques and new applications will constantly evolve.

Regional Strategies and Recommendations

The GIS workload in Region 4 is steadily increasing. Initially, GIS was only used to produce maps and figures for reports. Now it is used more and more by biologists and managers as an analytical tool for decision making.

There is currently no formal organizational structure for GIS in Region 4. This has led to over/underspending on equipment and software, redundant purchases of data, and duplication of efforts in creating GIS datasets. Several Region 4 Field Offices have independently acquired and implemented GIS technology to perform required functions ranging from Endangered Species location, impacts and recovery, to wetland impacts and mitigation, outreach on USFWS activities, and creation of Refuge CCP's. Due to a lack of support, training, dataset management, and knowledge regarding equipment, software and data needs, these independent efforts have produced varying levels of success. The logical remedy to this situation is to build an organized structure providing the USFWS Offices in the Region with GIS support and guidance at varying levels of expertise.

With the already large and growing GIS investment within the Region, the responsible thing to do is make that investment as efficient as possible, getting the most GIS "bang for the buck possible". Regional GIS Committee recommendations for accomplishing this goal are discussed below. A conceptual organizational structure is included at the end of this document (Appendix A).

The plan implementation has been designed within each recommendation as three levels, with Level One being status quo. Level Two is the recommended minimum and Level Three is the desired organization.

1. Establish a Regional GIS Office with a minimum of a Regional GIS Coordinator and a Regional GIS Specialist. Designate, staff and equip four Area Technical Support Centers in Vicksburg, Charleston, Cookeville, and Vero Beach, with a minimum of 2 FTEs dedicated to the important technical support function.

A. Establish a Regional GIS Office with a Regional GIS Coordinator and a Regional GIS Specialist.

Level 1

Since there is currently not a Regional GIS Coordinator nor a Regional GIS Specialist, the status quo is to not have these positions.

Level 2

Establish and fill a full-time Regional GIS Coordinator position in the Regional Office to address GIS needs and requests at a Regional scale.

The Regional GIS Coordinator would perform a coordination role as opposed to a management role. The Committee firmly believes a coordination role is much more important and valuable for the furtherance of GIS in the Region and is consistent with the decentralized approach to implementation. This role is similar to and consistent with the role played by the National GIS Coordinator.

Duties of the Regional GIS Coordinator

Level 3

In addition to the GIS Coordinator, establish and fill a GIS Specialist position in the Regional GIS Center to perform GIS tasks within the Regional Office.

Regional GIS Specialist

B. Designate, staff and equip Area Technical Support Centers in Vicksburg, Charleston, Cookeville, and Vero Beach.

The primary purpose of ATSCs is to provide technical assistance, project coordination and support to field offices. Being an ATSC will be a challenge for any office, but the Regional GIS Committee believes that ATSCs are necessary to get support out to the field level where it is most needed. An ATSC is expected to provide support to all programs within the Service and to any office in their support area without favoritism to any one office or program.

Level 1

At the present time, the Vicksburg and Cookeville offices are serving as ATSCs for their areas since these two offices already have one person in each office designated as the ATSC coordinator. Charleston and Vero Beach do not serve as ATSCs because they do not currently have a person serving in a coordinator position.

Level 2

Establish and fill a full-time coordinator position at each of the ATSCs. Cookeville and Vicksburg have already created and filled this position at their offices. Charleston and Vero Beach positions need to be created and filled.

The ATSC coordinator will develop partnerships with other Federal, State, local agencies, and other institutions in its area. The coordinator will also provide coordination of data sharing and acquisition, guidance on hardware/software needs, and support for other offices with advanced technology and production assistance.

The ATSCs will provide the following support functions to their respective Areas (Cookeville: TN, KY, AL; Charleston: NC, SC, GA, PR; Vicksburg: AR, LA, MS; Vero Beach: FL):

Level 3

In addition to the ATSC Coordinator, establish and fill a GIS Specialist position in each of the ATSCs.

Duties of the ATSC GIS Specialist:

The ATSCs will provide guidance, coordination and, in select cases depending on workload, specialized production that is beyond the capability of field stations.

2. Designate, staff, and equip Ecosystem Technical Support Centers at the following field stations: Athens Field Office, Boqueron Field Office, Charleston Field Office, Conway Field Office, Cookeville Field Office, Daphne Field Office, Jackson Field Office, Lafayette Field Office, Okefenokee National Wildlife Refuge, Panama City Field Office, Raleigh Field Office, Vero Beach Field Office, and Vicksburg Field Office.

In order to more fully implement a successful, decentralized GIS structure throughout the region, Ecosystem Technical Support Centers (ETSC) will be established. They are the first line of cross-program support to the field within the Region. Their primary role will be to support all field offices at the ecosystem level. Their overall duties will parallel those of the ATSC, but at a smaller scale (smaller geographic extent - ecosystems, lower specialized production level, and smaller workloads).

Ecosystem Technical Support Centers (ETSC) are important to the success of this plan primarily because they are within the ecosystem which they support and have a better understanding of field office needs. The ETSC offices were chosen based on their current staffing, GIS knowledge and equipment, and interest in serving as a support center. However, this does not mean that all Centers are equally staffed or can supply the same level of support. Below is a list of the Centers and the ecosystems that they support:

Athens Field Office - Altamaha & Savannah Refuges

Boqueron Field Office - Caribbean

Charleston Field Office - Savannah-Santee-Pee Dee

Conway Field Office - Arkansas-Red, Lower Mississippi River (AR portion), & Ozark

Cookeville Field Office - Lower Tennessee-Cumberland, Southern Appalachian, & Ohio River Valley, Lower Mississippi Valley (TN and KY portion)

Daphne Field Office - Central Gulf

Jackson Field Office - Lower Mississippi River (MS portion)

Lafayette Field Office - East Texas, & Lower Mississippi River (LA portion)

Okefenokee National Wildlife Refuge - North Florida

Panama City Field Office - Northeast Gulf

Raleigh Field Office - Roanoke-Tar-Neuse-Cape Fear & Southern Appalachian

Vero Beach Field Office - South Florida

Vicksburg - Lower Mississippi Valley Joint Venture

Level 1

Currently, most of the GIS positions at the identified ETSCs are collateral duty positions of Computer Specialist, Staff Biologist, Ecologist, etc.

Level 2

Establish and fill a full-time coordinator position at each of the ETSCs. The ETSC coordinator will provide support for other Service offices and develop partnerships within the ecosystem(s). The following support functions can be provided:

Level 3

Establish and fill an additional position at each ETSC. The ETSCs will provide additional, more extensive support/services than those in Level 2. These additional support functions will include:

3. GIS position descriptions should be adopted and appropriately graded for Region 4.

Region 4 lacks adequate GIS position descriptions for Personnel. Current GIS personnel in Region 4 are under position descriptions primarily as computer specialists, biologists, ecologists, assistant refuge managers, bio-techs, etc. Region 4 must create substantive GIS positions much like Region 1 has if it is to attract qualified GIS personnel. Individuals proficient in the use of GIS are becoming a valuable commodity, and the Region must create positions that are graded accordingly if it is to avoid becoming an informal training ground for other Service Regions, other agencies, and especially the private sector. The GIS Committee recommends that more appropriate GIS position descriptions be created.

4. Maintain a decentralized approach to the management of GIS in the Region.

The current approach to GIS in the Region is decentralized. Each of the offices that has implemented GIS in the region has used its own resources, initiative, and contacts with peer offices and agencies to set up, staff, and support GIS to enhance the performance of the duties of that office. Some of the benefits to this approach have been:

1) GIS trained personnel in the field offices that are aware of the ongoing issues in an ecosystem that can be addressed by geographic techniques.

2) Field office personnel that have contacts with GIS users in other Federal, State, and Local agencies that facilitate geographic data sharing, creation, and standardization.

3) Knowledge of geographic datasets generated locally which aid in biological assessments.

If the Region were to move to a centralized datacenter approach, moving all of the analysis and data acquisition activities to the Regional Office, it would be necessary to move, replace, or duplicate existing GIS activities/positions from the field offices. There would be a significant outlay in relocation costs or increased numbers of FTEs to move to this approach, as well as the disruption of ongoing biological assessments/ analyses involving GIS at several levels of the Region. Also, the opportunity for regular interaction with Federal, State, and Local ecosystem partners, and the knowledge of the localized geographic datasets would be lost.

Since one of the goals of this plan is to quickly implement a regional GIS strategy, a logical step would be to build on the resources already in place in the field offices, rather than to try to re-invent the wheel in the Regional Office.

5. Establish a Region 4 Geographic Information Systems Users Group that will meet annually.

Currently, there is no formal channel of communication between GIS users within Region 4, therefore, the Committee recommends the establishment of a US Fish and Wildlife Service Region 4 GIS Users Group with an annual meeting and conference.

Within the GIS community, communication with someone addressing similar issues using similar hardware and software often enables identification of solutions that otherwise might not have become apparent. A strong network with other GIS users is one of the most critical support factors in this field of endeavor. Many of the FWS users are located at remote stations, and giving those people the ability to contact an established group will be critical to advancing the GIS capacity of each station.

A directory of users will be compiled based on the results of the GIS survey. This directory will list the people who are currently using GIS in the Region, as well as the types of hardware and software they are using. This directory may be the most important communication support component within the Regional GIS community.

The Users Group would share information and experiences through a newsletter, email list, and an annual conference. The User's Group will also be an invaluable source of information about what the needs are in the field for GIS technology, and it can provide input to the technical support centers about hardware, software, data, and partnerships.

Annual Conference

The Cookeville Field Office hosted the Region 4 Geographic Information Systems Users Conference in 1999 and 2000. The Conference should be continued and should be attended by all Service personnel in the Region who are primary users of GIS. The meetings have provided and will continue to provide a means of communication for users to help answer questions, garner advice, and help overcome problems in systems operation and maintenance.

Newsletter

A newsletter, compiled from user submissions and GIS Coordinator gleanings from various sources, can be used to promulgate type and location of data sources; current projects underway in the FWS and other agencies and organizations; changes, additions, and improvements to hardware and software; and solutions to problems and methodologies encountered in GIS applications. The newsletter will be distributed via E-mail and the Internet.

E-mail

Communication between offices using GIS will primarily be via the Service's E-mail system. File transfers will be made using the Internet service connection provided by either a local company or IRM in Denver.

Internet

The Internet is one of the most valuable tools available to GIS practitioners. Its resources are ever growing, allowing access to more and more data and GIS information. In addition to the Service's national home page, all the Regional Offices have home pages as well. The Region 4 home page has a GIS button, but very lttle information on data, how we are organized, or what we do. The Regional GIS Committee will design and periodically update this portion of the home page to address these issues and provide contact information on Regional GIS personnel.

6. Designate a GIS contact person in every field station.

The GIS Committee recommends that offices using GIS technology designate an individual as a contact for GIS issues. This contact person would not necessarily perform GIS duties, but would be able to answer questions and surveys regarding GIS activities within the office.

7. The Technical Support Centers Will Provide Support for ESRI Products.

Surveys of Region 4 GIS capabilities indicate the predominant use of ESRI products for GIS applications, therefore, the Area Technical Support Centers (ATSC) and the Ecosystem Technical Support Centers (ETSC) will provide technical support primarily for ESRI products (i.e., ArcInfo, ArcView and its related extensions). The GIS Plan does not necessarily require the sole utilization of ESRI products, as this decision should be based on individual station needs.

Technical support eludes to setup, installation and troubleshooting ESRI products. The Technical Support Centers will also provide guidance to field stations in GIS project planning.

8. Use Geographic Information Needs Assessments (GINA) to determine the level of GIS capability and support needed by field stations.

The purpose of the GIS Planning Needs Assessment is to provide employee awareness and information needs to assist in the development of a GIS. The PNA is conducted by a cadre of GIS specialists. The major components of the PNA include the following:

1. GIS awareness

2. A "Needs Profile" for the field station

3. GIS information product descriptions

4. Identify data sources needed for the product descriptions

5. Set priorities for the product descriptions

6. Identify hardware and software needs

7. GINA approval

Methodology

A cadre of Fish and Wildlife Service GIS Specialists, consisting of the Regional GIS Coordinator, the Geographic Area GIS Technical Support Center Coordinator for the Area, and an additional GIS Specialist, will conduct a one-to-two day workshop with the Project Leader and field station staff.

GIS Awareness

The cadre will present a GIS Awareness session to the field station staff to create a general awareness of GIS, highlight its uses as a management tool, and generate ideas for effective management of natural resources using this technology.

Information Needs Profile

The Information Needs Profile consists of statements of the field station's overall responsibility, decisions the resource managers need to make and the questions they need to answer to carry out their responsibilities, and information products needed to assist in those decisions and actions. Each information product is assigned an identification number and associated statement of its objective. The product number is used by the cadre to set priorities for the information products.

GIS Information Product Descriptions

A GIS Information Product is defined as an output product from GIS. This product is in the form of a map and a report. It is sometimes difficult to distinguish between basic data and an interpreted information output product. Basic data refers to data that requires no interpretation and is usually data that can be measured such as species, height, diameter at breast height, or soil series. An output product from GIS refers to an interpretation made from basic data. It is the result of some type of GIS analysis such as overlay, calculation, or any of the other analytical functions of a GIS. Another example of an output product is acres of suitable habitat by sub-drainage. To generate this example in GIS, one might query the basic data for vegetation species and soil type, then measure distances from water, then overlay sub-drainage boundaries, then calculate the number of acres of suitable habitat in each sub-drainage, and then plot a map and print a report. The possibilities for data analysis are virtually unlimited.

The Product Description contains the following information and is prepared for each product identified:

Product title

Identification number

Scale of the desired output map

The resource area which needs the product

The person responsible for developing the product description

List of data needed and the steps to make the product

Estimate of how frequently the product might be needed

Data Sources

A list of Data Sources is compiled from the data needed portion of the GIS Information Product Descriptions. The listed data sources could be ones that currently exist or ones that do not exist, but are needed as input to the GIS so that the output product could be generated.

Prioritizing

Product descriptions are prioritized. The purpose of prioritizing products is to provide direction for the funding and scheduling of GIS data acquisition.

Hardware And Software Needs

The cadre will review product descriptions and identify the types of hardware, software, and peripherals needed to complete the GIS system at the station.

9. All Service GIS data will be collected in accordance with FWS GIS data standards with metadata.

Standardized GIS databases within the Region will be established where practical and in accordance with the National Spatial Data Infrastructure (NSDI) and Executive Order 12906. All data will comply with the National Mapping Accuracy Standards for digitizing and scanning. In addition, all boundaries of Service lands will be collected in accordance with the 97-01 Boundary Data Standard Operating Procedures.

To facilitate locating existing data within the Region, a data catalog will be established. Once completed, the information in this database will be available to all programs in the Region. The catalog will be a listing of state, federal, and Service spatial data that the regional GIS staff are currently aware of, a general description of the data, and a contact point to obtain information on the data. The purpose of the data catalog is to prevent duplication of effort in creating or purchasing of data within the Region, and to simplify locating data for new projects. This will reduce startup costs for new systems.

All Region 4-produced baseline data and acquired data of regional scope or potential application will be stored in a centrally located data warehouse. Data warehouse development will be initiated within one year after implementation of the plan. Data stored will be that of regional importance and perspective. The data will reside in Atlanta with the new Regional GIS Coordinator and the ATSC Coordinator for the Regional Office.

Under the umbrella of ecosystem management as well as NSDI, partnerships will be formed to share resources. These include data exchanges, cost-sharing to create new data sets, and co-operative agreements. GIS data sets, data layers, and databases developed in the Region are not considered proprietary (except for the locations of cultural resource sites and threatened and endangered species locations) and will be made available within Regional guidelines for releasing GIS data.

Metadata is a process developed by NSDI for federal agencies to document existing and newly developed data. Metadata describes the content, quality, condition, and other characteristics of data and is used to help a person locate and understand the data being acquired. Metadata for Region 4 GIS products will conform to the NSDI Metadata standards. Metadata documentation can be done through ARC/INFO, a new software package called Metamaker (being reviewed by the FWS National GIS Committee), or through other emerging software packages. It is a requirement that all GIS data produced by federal agencies have metadata attached to them. The FWS National GIS committee issues guidance pertaining to the required fields that FWS offices must complete.

Regional Data Sharing and Standards

Standards

Standardized GIS databases within the Region will be established where practical and in accordance with the National Spatial Data Infrastructure (NSDI) and Executive Order 12906. All data will comply with the National Mapping Accuracy Standards for digitizing and scanning.

Data Catalog

To facilitate locating existing data within the Region, a data catalog will be established. Once completed, the information in this database will be available to all programs in the Region. The catalog will be a listing of state, federal, and Service spatial data that the regional GIS staff are currently aware of, a general description of the data, and a contact point to obtain information on the data. The purpose of the data catalog is to prevent duplication of effort in creating or purchasing multiple copies of data within the Region, and to simplify locating data for new projects which will reduce startup costs for new systems.

Data Warehouse

All Region 4-produced baseline data and acquired data of regional scope or potential application will be stored in a centrally located data warehouse. The data warehouse will be formed within one year after the implementation of the plan. Data stored will be that of regional importance and perspective. The data will reside in Atlanta with the new Regional GIS Coordinator.

Data Sharing

Under the umbrella of ecosystem management as well as NSDI, partnerships will be formed to share resources. These include data exchanges, cost-sharing to create new data sets, and cooperative agreements. GIS data sets, data layers, and databases developed in the Region are not considered proprietary (except for the locations of cultural resource sites and threatened and endangered species) and will be made available within Regional guidelines for releasing GIS data.

Metadata

Metadata is a process developed by NSDI for federal agencies to document existing and newly developed data. Metadata describes the content, quality, condition, and other characteristics of data and is used to help a person to locate and understand the data being acquired or sought after. Metadata will conform to the NSDI Metadata standards. Metadata documentation can be done through ARC/INFO, a new software package called Metamaker (being reviewed by the FWS National GIS Committee), or through other emerging software packages. It is a requirement that all GIS data produced by federal agencies have metadata attached to them. The FWS National GIS committee issues guidance pertaining to the required fields that FWS offices must fill in.


Appendix 1. (To be updated semi-annually) - Last Update May, 2001

 

Regional Minimum Standards for GIS Hardware / Software

Establishing a GIS requires the following considerations prior to the purchase of any equipment

Geographic Information Needs Assessments (GINA) should be completed for each user facility (field station, Regional Office) in coordination with the Area Technical Support Centers. The GINA will address the questions necessary to adequately implement a GIS program at an individual station. The guidelines listed below are the minimum recommended configurations as of May 2001.

Table 1: GIS Hardware and Software Recommendations

Hardware / Software Personal Computer (PC)
Computer configuration IBM-compatible

Pentium III 1GHz or better

256 MB to 1 GB RAM

40 to 100 GB Hard Disk

17"or 20" monitor

Tape backup Colorado 8mm or 4mm

Seagate DAT, DLT, or Optical

Exabyte Jaz or Zip Drive or CD-RW

Digitizer Digitizer - at least 24 x 36 active area
Color Plotter

600 dpi

D-size

68 MB RAM

Color Printer

600 dpi

4 MB RAM

Operating System Windows 2000 Professional
GIS Software
Viewing ArcView 3.2a or ArcGIS 8.1

Basic Data Development ArcGis 8.1
Data development and analysis ArcInfo (ArcGIS) 8.1
 

The scenarios described below give examples of potential uses of GIS and the recommended hardware and software configurations for that use.

Scenario 1:

Use: basic viewing - no data development -some map making

 

Scenario 2:

Use: minimal data development and substantial map making

Scenario 3:

Use: moderate data development, analysis and map making

APPENDIX 2. (To be updated as needed)

GLOSSARY

AML - Arc Macro Language - A high-level algorithmic language that provides full macro programming capabilities.

Accuracy - the closeness of results of observations, computations or estimates to the true values or the values accepted as being true

Analysis - An operation that examines the data with the intent to extract or create new data that fulfill some of the required conditions.

Area Technical Support Center (ATSC) - the main technical support center in each of four areas; will provide administrative and technical support to all field stations in its area

Aspect - the viewing direction from or to an object, such as the southern aspect or view from a scenic overlook, and what would be seen from that aspect

Attribute - any information related to a feature on a map; attributes for a wetland might be the classification (PEM), the area, perhaps related wildlife sightings - this will vary with the user and the project

Buffer - A form of proximity analysis where zones of a given distance are generated around coverage features.

Coverage - equivalent to data layer and/or theme; an example of a coverage is the road information or wetland information for any given area

Data Layer - one piece of information in a geographic data base such as wetlands - (see "coverage")

Digitize - to computerize (automate) mapped data by tracing it with a cursor (mouse) on a tablet equipped with an electronic grid for use in a GIS system

Digitizer - A device consisting of a table and a cursor with cross hairs and keys used to record the locations of map features.

Ecosystem Technical Support Center (ETSC) - each area contains a cluster of ecosystems; the ETSCs provide support extending to assistance in data creation and manipulation for the ecosystem field offices; also, the ETSC will house data for the ecosystem

FTE - Full-time Employee - A position held full-time by an individual person

Geo-referenced Data (geospatial) - mapped data tied to real-world geographic coordinates such as latitude and longitude

GIS - Geographic Information System - a computerized system for linking and analyzing map data and related tabular data base information

GIS specialists - GIS specialists are those people who spend at least 50 percent of their time performing GIS tasks. These tasks include (1) system development (needs assessments, AML, programming, technical support, hardware and software setup, installation and maintenance); (2) data development (project design, data acquisition, data standards, data evaluation, database development ) and (3) GIS-based spatial analysis and modeling (AML programming, data limitations, query building, statistical modeling).

GPS - Global Positioning System - a system that uses receivers that collect locational information from a satellite constellation very accurately that can be incorporated with GIS

Grid Data - a type of GIS data consisting of rows and columns of square 'cells' or pixels, generally used for analysis purposes; each cell will have a value or classification assigned to it

Latitude - angular distance measured on a meridian north or south from the equator

Longitude - angular distance between the plane of a meridian east or west from the plane of the meridian of Greenwich

Map Scale - a ratio of the units measured on the ground to each unit measured on the map; small scale=little detail, large area, small value of ratio such as 1:250,000; large scale=much detail, small area, large value of ratio such as 1:24,000

Metadata - data about the content, quality, condition, and other characteristics of data

Minimum Map Unit- the smallest detectable area on a map such as acre, hectare, square mile, etc.

Non-spatial Attribute - information related to items that have no associated geographic information associated (e.g. the cost of a land parcel)

Operating System - Computer software designed to allow a user to communicate with computer hardware (such as DOS or Unix)

Pixel - two-dimensional picture element that is the smallest non-divisible element of a digital image

Point - a feature on a map such as a nest that is a point location with no real area (acreage) involved

Polygon - a mapped feature such as a wetland with curved or straight edges and area; used in vector coverages

Raster - a type of data using grid cells rather than polygons; used especially for analysis, rather than display

Resolution - the minimum difference between two independently measured or computed values which can be distinguished by the measurement or analytical method being considered or used

Spatial data - data that has a geographic relationship, or that can be mapped; may or may not be geo-referenced

Thematic Data - Tabular and/or textual data describing the geographic characteristics of map features.

Vector - a type of data using polygons, points, and lines; gives a very realistic display or map, but not good for extensive modeling due to problems of exactly matching layers of data