Mapping is an important component of any environmental planning effort. Good mapping will allow you to build upon it during the community assessment stage and during later steps of the Green Communities process. This section presents a variety of mapping tools that can help to complete a community assessment.
The extent of your planning area will help determine the scale of mapping which will be needed. Ideally, mapping resource features on large scale maps (e.g. 1:24,000) will enable you to accurately locate resources. The following is a review of some of the mapping resources that are readily available for conducting a community assessment.
These World Wide Web-based mapping applications generate maps that display environmental information for the entire United States. Click here for Maps On Demand. For additional digital land cover information visit the Land Cover Institute and The National Map Users Conference and USGS Geographic Information Science (GIS) Workshop.
Geographic Information Systems (GIS) are great tools for integrating information and displaying a wide variety of data as a map. If you have access to a GIS or are considering using a GIS to integrate, analyze and display your inventory information.
U.S. Geologic Survey Topographic Maps
Produced by the U.S. Geologic Survey these maps are available for most areas of the United States. They are called 7.5 minute maps and are at a scale of 1:24,000. Many existing features are identified. Be sure to check when the map was most recently updated. You will need to add newer roads, facilities and resource losses based upon local information. USGS map indexes and maps are available from:
- National Cartographic Information Center,
- U.S. Geological Survey,
- 507 National Center
- Reston, Virginia 22092
. They can also provide you with a list of local map dealers where you can purchase USGS maps.
County and State Highway Maps
These maps can be used to overlay or illustrate information not available on the USGS maps. They can be used to update the USGS maps and will show special information such as state/county owned lands, state parks, and historic points of interest.
National Wetlands Inventory Maps
These maps are available for purchase and show the location of wetlands in the community. Any wetlands inventories should be supplemented by other local studies which may have been performed for developers or transportation agencies. NWI maps are available from:
- Earth Science Information Office,
- Blaisdell House,
- University of Massachusetts,
- Amherst, MA 01003-0820.
County Soils Surveys
These maps and aerial photography are completed for most areas of the United States. Maps show soils types and there are interpretations of their suitability for different types of uses. They are produced by the U.S. Department of Agriculture, Natural Resources Conservation Service.
FEMA's Map Center has a variety of maps, including floodplain maps. More detailed flood studies may have been performed at the local level for new development. Check with the local municipality who regulates development in your community.
County and Local Natural Areas Inventories Map
Many county planning offices have produced natural features inventories for their planning purposes. These can be an excellent source of information and you should contact your county planning office to see if such an inventory exists. Also, many local communities have prepared comprehensive plans which may contain natural resources inventories. Again, contact your local municipality to see if this information exists.
Aerial photography can provide useful information for community inventories. Aerial photography at a variety of sizes and scales is available for purchase from the U.S. Department of Agriculture, Farm Service Agency, Aerial Photography Field Office. Aerial photography for the U.S. Forest Service and U.S. Natural Resources Conservation Service can also be purchased through the Aerial Photography Field Office. Aerial photgraphy can also be viewed and purchased on-line from Terra Server.
Land Use Mapping
This type of mapping identifies both existing land use practices and future land use practices. Land use maps are usually developed by local or county planning offices as part of a larger planning effort. This mapping is usually in color with the land uses depicted by different colors. Land use mapping is very helpful in reviewing the current use of land and land use practices in a particular area. Land use maps can assist with decisions regarding transportation planning, expansion of sewer and water service, and other municipal services rendered by local or county governments. Land use mapping is also important in making zoning decisions.