KU and KBS are key partners in creation of new West-wide Crucial Habitat service

Published on December 12, 2013 by Mike Houts

Tags: Agriculture, Aquatic habitat, Corridors, Crucial Habitat, Energy resources, Fish and Game, Grasslands, Habitat, Impact, Land cover, Land use, Oil and Gas, Prairie, Protected areas, Remote sensing, Reservoir, Rivers, Sensitive species, Terrestrial habitat, Transmission Lines, Vertical Structures, Watersheds, Wetland and riparian, WGA, WGA CHAT, Wildlife, Wind Turbines

Western Governors' Association Crucial Habitat Assessment Tool, 2013

Western Governors' Association Crucial Habitat Assessment Tool, 2013

For the last three years, the Western Governors Association (WGA) has been working with state wildlife agencies to create a standardized map of Crucial Habitat across the western United States to inform energy, transportation, and land use planning decisions at a regional scale. A collaborative effort of this scope between state wildlife agencies has not been accomplished before, and this effort represents a huge step forward in identifying landscapes that provide important resources to wildlife.

Two units of the Kansas Biological Survey at the University of Kansas worked closely with the Kansas Department of Wildlife, Parks and Tourism (KDWPT) on the WGA’s Crucial Habitat project. The Kansas Applied Remotes Sensing (KARS) Program has a coordinated partnership with KDWPT to provide GIS mapping support and online mapping services for the display and distribution of geospatial data. As an independent party having the technical facilities to process and share data with other WGA project states, KARS was able to provide a number of services that were instrumental in the creation and completion of the WGA Crucial Habitat Assessment Tool (WGA CHAT). The Kansas Natural Heritage Inventory (KSNHI), with a mission to collect, manage, and disseminate information about the rare species and natural communities of Kansas, contributed to the development of the Species of Concern component of the project.

From start to finish, the KARS program provided assistance in data creation, data assessment, and data viewing and sharing that allowed the states to work together in a coordinated manner. The KSNHI worked with representatives of others states to help determine how to integrate data on wildlife Species of Concern and their habitats in a consistent manner across the region. KSNHI contributed data from its Biotics databases on the location and status of plant and animal species in Kansas and reviewed species habitat models and other wildlife data products.

In the beginning, KARS was responsible for creating and distributing the 1-square mile hexagon grid that was used to assess and map the western landscape. To assist with analysis and assessment of data layers provided by participating states, KARS implemented a methodology that used a custom web mapping service for viewing random point locations over the data layers in question and high resolution imagery background. An online survey form allowed users to rank the quality of the modeled data at random point locations within their state. It was through the creation and use of the Landscape Assessment Point Survey (LAPS) process that WGA states had the opportunity to conduct “remote field assessment” of 1,560 points scattered across the western United States (many in remote and inaccessible locations). As data layers were developed in each state, a secure, password protected web mapping viewer was developed where “in progress” state products could be viewed. A secure FTP site where states could upload/download data was set up on the University of Kansas computer network to help states share and view data. As a result of having these utilities in place, KARS was utilized as the central data manager for the project and was responsible for creating a mosaic of the 16 individual state data layers into the final west-wide data set.

The KARS and KSNHI programs of the Kansas Biological Survey and the University of Kansas are proud to have played such an important role in the ground breaking effort led by the Western Governors Association to create a regional land use planning tool that allows users to make informed decisions regarding development projects and important wildlife areas.

The WGA CHAT can be viewed here: http://www.westgovchat.org/, and additional information on the Western Governors site http://www.westgov.org/initiatives/wildlife/380-chat.