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A Survey of Geographic Information Systems for Natural Resources Decision Making

A Geographic Information System (GIS) is a computer-based methodology including hardware, software and graphics that encodes, analyzes and displays multiple data layers derived from various sources. A GIS can integrate multi-layered information and express the analysis in the form of tables, graphic displays on a monitor, and in maps. Installing GISs at a facility so that users will have “hands-on” access to the system for day-to-day decisions will enable public policy to be more specific, thus more legally defensible, and also more innovative. Surveys identified the two most frequent developers and users of GIS software to be USDA Soil Conservation Service State Conservationists and State Departments of Agriculture. The greatest need to extend GIS technologies appears to be among local elected officials. Questions for a follow-up survey of users were designed to represent those of importance to local level decision-makers who need to be able to evaluate the agricultural significance of their natural resources. The Land Evaluation and Site Assessment (LESA) system is flexible enough to accommodate use at the local, regional and state level, yet in all cases LESA evaluations require integration of multiple data sets for single site analyses as well as analysis of other complicated elements in a broad network of off-site factors that affect the viability of farms. The LESA model depends on the integration of multiple data sets and analysis of complex spatial interrelationships. The evaluation is further complicated by the need to assign different weights to various classes of data on the basis of local considerations.

Publication Name
AFT Publication
Downloadable Documents
American Farmland Trust
Washington, DC: American Farmland Trust
Page Numbers
ii, 162
Publication Date
August 01, 1985
Publication Type
Reports and Guides
Land Evaluation and Site Assessment, Land Use Planning

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