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Uses of GIS at Region 7

With the ability to separate information into layers, and then combine it with other layers, GIS can be an important analytical tool. The EPA is using these layering capabilities for the following activities:

The Strategic Environmental Assessment Team (SEAT) is using GIS as a tool to perform a preliminary environmental assessment of the Region. It is the intent of this assessment to improve our knowledge of environmental conditions which can be used for making decisions on environmental issues and assisting in the programmatic prioritization process. The team will study the geographic distribution and extent of areas in need of protection, determine probable causes of the environmental problems, and then evaluate the significance to people in terms of health, values, economics, and politics.

Environmental Assessment

Environmental assessment in Region 7 has two purposes:

  1. to provide regional location-referenced information concerning the environment as a means of assisting in making decisions and establishing priorities within the Region
  2. to provide the tools and expertise in their use to do environmental assessment and help others in the region do them.
The ultimate goal is an environmental information analysis and reporting system that professionals and the public can use to put together a broad range of data - biological, geophysical, sociological and economic - to help make decisions. It is envisioned that the results will be accessible from any employee's desktop computer through a GIS interface within the regional office.

A user-friendly version of the GIS and associated information will eventually be made available on the Internet. These goals will require a multidisciplinary effort and close coordination with regional, state and local programs and organizations to make sure the results are useful to many different consumers. We anticipate the results of this effort will provide program managers within the region, environmental managers at other federal and state agencies, and the general public with on-demand credible data and analytical tools to support sound environmental decision-making.

Ecosystem Priority Initiative

The mission of the Critical Ecosystem Protection Priority group is to create and implement effective initiatives and strategies that will facilitate ecosystem protection as a regional priority. As part of the regional Ecosystems priority, the Data Integration team collaborated with each program to produce the EPA 30 year report, updated the regional programmatic profile and compiled and prioritized critical ecosystems within the Region. These efforts will be a major part of the information used in the regional Ecosystem priority initiative to enable Region 7 to identify, improve and protect ecosystems which are critical to biodiversity, human quality of life and landscape function.

Enforcement Targeting Initiative

The Data Integration Team is working collaboratively with the representatives of the other EPA programs on an enforcement targeting initiative. The team is providing both technical support and developing maps that can be used by the programs to assist them with identifying and evaluating areas for enforcement actions, inspections, compliance assistance, Environmental Justice issues, permitting activities, and ecosystems analysis. This initiative will enable the region to focus its resources on those areas with the most significant human health and environmental problems, and to more efficiently use program resources.

Cumulative Risk Assessment

In coordination with U.S. EPA, Region 6, the Data Integration Team is developing a cumulative risk assessment application using ArcIMS. The application will allow users to choose from several indices to define risk, spatial extent and scale. Region specific data on vulnerability and stressors will be compiled and ranked as mapping output. This application will be useful for a number of EPA activities including, enforcement, targeting, permit issuance, Total Daily Maximum Load (TMDL) calculations, Environmental Justice considerations, environmental impact statement reviews, and the implementation of regional priorities - agriculture, critical ecosystem protection and sensitive human population protection.

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