37° 48' 15.7068'' N, 122° 16' 15.9996'' W
MODERN MAP MAKING HAS ARRIVED
37° 48' 15.7068'' N, 122° 16' 15.9996'' W
MODERN MAP MAKING HAS ARRIVED
37° 48' 15.7068'' N, 122° 16' 15.9996'' W
MODERN MAP MAKING HAS ARRIVED
37° 48' 15.7068'' N, 122° 16' 15.9996'' W
MODERN MAP MAKING HAS ARRIVED
37° 48' 15.7068'' N, 122° 16' 15.9996'' W
MODERN MAP MAKING HAS ARRIVED
37° 48' 15.7068'' N, 122° 16' 15.9996'' W
MODERN MAP MAKING HAS ARRIVED
37° 48' 15.7068'' N, 122° 16' 15.9996'' W
MODERN MAP MAKING HAS ARRIVED
37° 48' 15.7068'' N, 122° 16' 15.9996'' W
MODERN MAP MAKING HAS ARRIVED
37° 48' 15.7068'' N, 122° 16' 15.9996'' W
MODERN MAP MAKING HAS ARRIVED
37° 48' 15.7068'' N, 122° 16' 15.9996'' W
MODERN MAP MAKING HAS ARRIVED
Maps
Editorial
Mapping protected territories: Westchester Land Trust case study
Land protection is one way to combat climate change. The Westchester Land Trust is making a big impact in New York State and using Felt to tell their story.
Land protection is one way to combat climate change. The Westchester Land Trust is making a big impact in New York State and using Felt to tell their story.

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.

Finding the Best Way to Display Data

WLT was looking for a way to show how much the land trust has accomplished — the organization has protected over 9,000 acres in Westchester and Eastern Putnam Counties. So Gentian had to experiment with different symbology and come up with a way to show the influence of WLT on the region without disclosing the location of some of the private land plots. “We focused on understanding what types of land we are showing and how we are showing it,” she adds.

Here is how she approached it:

  • Green, blue, and yellow polygons for publicly accessible areas. For public parks with trails, Gentian used polygons — by clicking on them, the user can also see their address, parking information, and a link to a more detailed description on the WLT website.
  • Pins for preserves with no public access and privately-owned properties under easement that are not sensitive locations, as well as properties that WLT assisted in protecting. Gentian used pins for areas that are not open to the public — this is the land owned by the land trust, but kept totally natural. For each property, only two data points are available — the number of acres and the town where the preserve is located.
  • Purple sized by acreage bubbles visualizations for WLT Protected Land by Town. The biggest challenge for Gentian was showing the land trust’s impact in the region without disclosing the locations of some privately owned land. So she calculated how much land WLT protected in each town in NY, then uploaded data into Felt, and styled it by the total acreage.

The creation of the interactive map using Felt was a big accomplishment for the team that had limited resources and a tight timeline — the map was completed in less than three weeks. WLT is continuing to refine their approach to effectively communicate information about their protected land.

“Our service territory goes from just north of the Bronx all the way up to northeastern Putnam County. With such a big stretch of land, we really wanted people to have a detailed map that they can zoom in and zoom out of,” adds Gentian. With Felt's powerful visualization tools, Gentian was able to create a map that provides an in-depth overview of all the WLT accomplishments in the region and gives the organization’s local audience directions on how to access public preserves and trails.

“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.”
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