Benefitting from Change

The Esri Forestry GIS Conference held its third meeting at Esri headquarters in Redlands, California on May 14-16. Esri president Jack Dangermond launched the event by welcoming attendees, who represented land and timber companies, government organizations, and universities, and came from as far away as Guyana, Ireland, and South Africa.
Hosted by the Esri Forestry Group, the conference was designed to build community and provide a venue for people to talk about GIS applications that improve forest management and operations. The opening day lineup of speakers was impressive.
Keynote speaker, Richard Guldin of the USDA Forest Service talked about GIS innovation implemented by the Forest Inventory and Analysis (FIA) program. He described FIA products such as insect and disease risk maps, Landsat tree cover change depictions, wildfire trends and severity analysis, and the national land cover canopy layer dataset. He also talked about a current project named Forest Atlas of the United States. It will be launched in 2014 as a printed book and as a data service, which includes data layers built from many data providers and links to other data repositories such as ArcGIS Online.

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Tom Boggus, Texas state forester and director of Texas A&M Forest Service talked about the new wildfire assessment portal TxWRAP.  The user enters an address and sees the wildfire risk with a 20-mile radius of a home. Boggus also demonstrated a GIS tool that uses FIA data to calculate biomass by area.

Brent Keefer, vice president, Hancock Natural Resource Group and director of resource planning and investment strategy, Hancock Timber Resource Group talked about using GIS to address business challenges of TIMOs. GIS supports forest operation management and TIMOS can use it to support third party appraisals; update annual investment models; provide client account and investment performances reports; and respond to a dynamic timber market.
Haimwant Persaud, assistant commissioner of Guyana Forest, manages forest resources information for the Guyana Forestry Commission. He explained importance of GIS for measuring the reduction of emissions of deforestation and degradation. Persaud’s team implemented a forest monitoring system that produces a forest stratification map that rates the potential for forest change.
Dr. D. James Baker, director of the Global Carbon Measurement Program, William J. Clinton Foundation, explained the Clinton Climate Initiative. It fosters carbon credit exchanges between industrial and rainforest countries. GIS is used to assess forest area change and monitor forest carbon sequestration.

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The conference provided opportunities for attendees to participate, network, and learn. Users gave 5-minute presentations to show their tools and applications and hung their maps in the Forestry Map Gallery. Attendees joined in day-long field labs and hands-on technical workshops focusing on lidar and editing data. Participants had time to talk with Esri’s forest technology partners in the GIS Solutions Expo and meet with Esri technical services team members to get help and direction. Many participants presented papers about their forestry projects, which have been posted on the conference proceedings webpage. Photographs from the conference are also available on Flickr.

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