Mapping Protected Lands: Westchester Land Trust Workflow
Land protection is one of the most important tools we have to combat climate change. Founded in 1988 in Bedford, New York, Westchester Land Trust (WLT) is an organization that set out on a mission to protect land from development through various mechanisms, such as land acquisition and conservation easements. It is an accredited land trust, one of the first in the country to meet high professional standards.
Gentian Falstrom is the Land Project Manager at WLT. Mapmaking is an essential part of her workflow, but before joining WLT two years ago, she had no experience with GIS. Now she creates maps daily to determine land protection priorities. If an organization or an individual wants to work with WLT, Gentian is their first point of contact. Whether it's a donation of land, a purchase of land, or negotiating the legal terms of a conservation easement, Gentian documents the conservation values of a property and brings it to the board of directors for the final decision.
Typically, she leads an assessment and uses datasets to assign points. “We have a score for all of these parcels, and they get points for environmental benefits, such as protecting drinking water sources or adjacency to already protected land,” she adds. The scoring process utilizes environmental and parcel data provided by the county and the state, as well as The Nature Conservancy datasets focused on climate resiliency. Then she assigns the final score that determines whether WLT staff will recommend a land protection project to their board.
Creating One Source of Truth
One of the major projects Gentian has been working on is a map for WLT’s new website and a way to visualize all the protected lands WLT has conserved. The team wanted to have a public web map that would show their impact, which was challenging since WLT manages a lot of different types of land.
Some preserves are open to the public, which means that the future map had to demonstrate where the public can access them. Other protected land is privately held, and WLT can’t disclose the exact location of certain plots to protect the identity of private landowners, some of whom are high-profile people living in the Westchester area.
“We chose Felt for this project because it’s a user-friendly tool that allowed us to create a web map without hiring a developer,” says Gentian.