GeoDesign in Conservation Planning: Stakeholder Driven Geoprocessing through Greenprinting

Will Rogers, President, the Trust for Public Lands, presents "GeoDesign in Conservation Planning: Stakeholder Driven Geoprocessing through Greenprinting" at the 2010 GeoDesign Summit.

Jan 5th, 2010

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00:01Please join me in welcoming Will Rogers.

00:07Thanks Jack. Is a...yep, sounds like the mike's on.

00:11You know, a couple of people asked me if I'm related to "the" Will Rogers, the cowboy humorist.

00:16And you won't get rope tricks or cowboy humor out of me...

00:19...but I’m a firm subscriber in advice that he gave to a friend who once asked him, "What's the best investment I can make?"

00:27And his response was, "Buy land; they ain't makin' it anymore."

00:31And I've been working for an organization for the last 18 years that does just that...

00:37...and we work in the conservation real estate field in the marketplace and we have... our own way, been trying to move inland conservation away from being reactive into a more designed approach.

00:53And it's, this is a great opportunity for us to learn, here, from you all...

00:58...but also to thank Jack and his team and Esri for the partnership and the work they've done for us... help us bring GIS technology into helping communities design and plan for their future.

01:11This is a Gary Larson cartoon of one of the projects we did up in the San Juan Islands, on Turtleback Mountain.

01:17But emergency room land conservation is really what the conservation community has been doing for so long.

01:23The bulldozers show up, the For Sale sign goes on the property, the phone rings off the hook.

01:28Actually these days, the phone is ringing off the hook because developers can no longer hold onto their entitled property... it's a different situation for a moment.

01:37But for years the conservation community has really been reacting to threats and challenges...

01:43...particularly if your focus is on people, as ours is, because our mission, Land for People...

01:49...really puts a focus on communities and the importance of the relationship between people and place...

01:55...recognizing that if we have healthy human communities and a healthy relationship with nature...

02:00...that's ultimately going to be good for all species.

02:03Let me talk for a minute about TPL and where I come from, just so you have some...

02:08...a context for what I want to talk about in terms of how we're using GIS for the design process.

02:14We're a national conservation organization. We work across the country.

02:18As I said, we're really in conservation real estate. We face two principal challenges.

02:25You know, and Tom you set a very broad canvas.

02:29I'm going deep in one aspect of this, but a lot of what we're facing is absolutely related to what you were talking about.

02:36One challenge of course is population growth and disproportionate land use. Great quote there.

02:44This is in San Diego someplace.

02:46The second challenge for us is how we make our cities work better.

02:49How we make them green, vital...

02:51...and our metric is that every child be within a 10-minute walk of a park, garden, or a safe place to play.

02:58And if we can get our cities right, we think it'll take the pressure off the urbanizing fringe...

03:02...and change that landscape into this landscape.

03:06So those are the two threats that we deal with, both in the cities and beyond the city limits.

03:11The way we work is an organization, again in the marketplace.

03:14I'll talk more about the vision work because that's really the core of my presentation...

03:18...but we also help federal, state, local, municipal government raise money, 30 billion in the last six years...

03:27...for land conservation projects through initiative, mostly through voter initiatives.

03:31We've done about 4,000 deals. The numbers don't really matter.

03:34A quarter of an acre in an inner city makes an enormous difference in people's lives.

03:39And then we also do park design and development in a number of cities, engaging kids in participatory design.

03:44Because we work from inner city to wilderness, we've divided our program into several initiatives.

03:50Parks for People is urban, suburban.

03:52Working Lands, obviously family farms, ranches.

03:55Natural Lands, national parks, wilderness, the works there.

03:59Heritage Lands, cultural, historic sites that help us understand where we're coming from...

04:04...and hopefully we can remember more about, when we're figuring out where to go.

04:09And then water isn't just about scenic coastlines. It's also about water quality and protecting land to protect water.

04:16And that takes us anywhere from inner city gardens in Oakland... a before and after for a New York playground that the kids actually designed... what we call fitness zones and low-income neighborhoods in Los Angeles.

04:28Our Working Lands gets us into working with the [National] Parks Service...

04:32...on J.C. Hyde's Farm within the city limits of Atlanta... southwestern Colorado, the Wet Mountain Valley, 8,000 acres of conservation easements with ranchers there...

04:43...south of Glacier National Park, a project we did with The Nature Conservancy...

04:47...300,000 acres purchased from Plum Creek timber...

04:51...critical lands for adaptation and wildlife corridors...

04:55...Palo Duro Canyon in Texas, the block where Martin Luther King grew up.

05:00We protected something like 13 homes now with the Park Service, as a national historic site.

05:05Returning 10,000 acres to the Nez Perce tribe in southeast Oregon.

05:09Their ancestral homelands, which they call "precious lands," which they were able to return to after more than a hundred years.

05:16And this 17,000 acres, about 30 miles outside of New York City...

05:20...provides something like 25 percent of New Jersey's drinking waters.

05:24So very much part of our land and water program.

05:27And the befores and afters are always compelling, certainly in urban areas, again a kid-designed playground.

05:35And every now and then we get a second bite at the land use apple.

05:37This is the Richfield Coliseum near the Cuyahoga, in the Cuyahoga Valley.

05:42It was headed for being a shopping mall.

05:45We got our hands on it, took it down, worked with the Parks Service, and now it's prairie.

05:50So every now and then you get a chance to bring something back...

05:53...and in this market right now, we're getting a lot of those opportunities, which is terrific.

05:57But let me talk about the vision piece, which is really our response to how you get out of this emergency room land conservation.

06:06We've done what we call vision projects. We've done about 50 of them to date.

06:12There're 15 in the pipeline. I think we're actively working on about 20 right now.

06:18Everything from working with townships in New England to 25 counties in the northern Midwest.

06:26We worked with the EPA on source-water protection green prints in a number of different states, and they're all sizes and shapes.

06:34But they're some commonalities that I want to talk to.

06:38When we're working in cities, it's more of a perspective issue.

06:42How do we make sure that cities have really wonderful park systems, have that 10-minute walk criteria built in?

06:49And that means, and the red is...

06:51...are essentially the areas where large populations of children are furthest from parks and open space.

06:57So we essentially do gap analysis. Here's a simpler, older map, by census tract, in the San Fernando Valley.

07:03The dark red are the places where there're a lot of low-income kids with no places to play.

07:09We call it a Parks Needs Analysis. I call it Endangered Children's Habitat.

07:13And so that's one way in which we use our planning and mapping and GIS... help people understand what they need to do to have healthier environments, for our species.

07:23When we're getting outside of the cities, it's a different challenge.

07:26And that's, this is really what I want to talk about.

07:28Where you have multiple needs, multiple opportunities for conservation that requires understanding on the one hand...

07:37...bringing science to bear, but also getting community involvement in a prioritization so that you can actually do something.

07:44And and so often the challenge isn't just doing the design, but it's moving beyond the design to action.

07:50And we've really found that GIS has helped us do that in a wonderful way.

07:56This is the process for conservation vision, for TPL's conservation vision.

08:02And I’m going to focus primarily on the second arrow there. Green printing and GIS analysis.

08:07But there're four different stages. And they're, you know, pretty straightforward.

08:11Got to bring the right people into the tent.

08:13You've got to then amass the information to help educate them and let them make an informed decision...

08:18...about what they want to see in the future, the design piece of it.

08:22And then we do a finance analysis, because we work in the marketplace to figure out where the funds might be... actually make this work, and then come up with a brief plan.

08:31The worst thing from our point of view, as being a pragmatic conservation organization... to develop a plan that gathers dust on the shelf.

08:38So this last step "and then getting to action" is absolutely critical for us.

08:42Walking through these briefly, again...

08:45...getting all the right people in the room is critical, but getting all the people in the room is a mistake.

08:50So you have to really figure out who you want to have there...

08:53...and really make sure that you have the key constituencies that are really going to make a difference...

08:57...and carry the weight to get you to consensus and get you to action.

09:02And that group will help you identify what we call our technical advisory teams.

09:06The people, whether they're hydrologists, or people who really understand biodiversity, who know where the data are...

09:12...who we gather together to help us actually do the research so that we can bring back to the stakeholders...

09:17...the maps and the information that they need to make informed decisions.

09:24The second stage, once we've got our community together, is doing the green print.

09:29And this is really where I want to focus, because it really is taking, bringing in science, bringing in information...

09:37...making it presentable, creating a platform, and creating a table where everyone can sit, understand...

09:43...and then come up with an informed decision and hopefully get to consensus.

09:46And if it's done right, it's a process that really...

09:49...that really allows you to deal with discord and disagreement and come out the other side with action.

09:55There're five pretty simple steps.

09:58Local goals. By that we mean water quality protection, ag [agricultural] land protection, scenic vistas, recreation.

10:06Those are the goals we're talking about...

10:08...and then we need to do on it on a parcel-by-parcel basis, we're, you know, we're action oriented.

10:13We're talking about buying land here.

10:15We've got to understand what each parcel means in terms of those local goals.

10:20When we map it, the red areas are the ones that have the highest resource value relative to that goal.

10:27So whether it's water quality, connections to parks, ag lands, transit-oriented development parks...

10:35...all of these can be mapped and then you have an opportunity to then see what it looks like.

10:42We can't do everything.

10:43There're never enough resources to protect all the land and all the resources that communities want to protect.

10:48And therefore, we've got to make decisions. We have to prioritize.

10:53And this system allows us to move from being reactive to being proactive and allows us to weight the different areas.

11:01I'm going to talk more about this in a minute as to how we do that, but that weighting is absolutely critical...

11:06...because you've got to come out the other side with a consensus around what the priorities are.

11:10Does drinking water matter more than scenic? And does that matter more than trails?

11:14And once you've done that you can create alternative scenarios, again using a very fluid mapping system...

11:19...which is enormously helpful, to, real time show people what it looks like.

11:24And then ultimately you've got to drive to consensus and come up with a design that people are willing to implement.

11:32One thing that we've really taken pride in is, because we work on a parcel-by-parcel basis...

11:39...this is a tool that allows TPL and our stakeholders to really dig in...

11:44...and understand what each, what the values are for each parcel.

11:48Whether it's, what is it's habitat value, what's it's water-quality value, etc.

11:53And so you can really drill down.

11:54We actually got a recognition from Esri a couple of years back for the quality of this particular tool.

12:01Not everyone gets to see parcel by parcel.

12:04We put it up on a Web site but it's protected because this can be a very political situation, obviously...

12:10...and when you're trying to buy these things, you don't want to get too much information out there.

12:14So once we've done the green print there're a lot of different ways that we can present that information.

12:18Strategy maps.

12:20Profile reports, the lower left-hand side.

12:22And then also, we put it up on the Web in many of these situations to create a, if you will, a virtual workplace...

12:28...where the stakeholders and others can actually go see what's there, understand it, share information...

12:33...and really inform themselves so that what we ultimately end up with in a consensus is an informed consensus.

12:40The other two steps of the vision problem is a process, as I said...

12:45...looking at the finance side, you know, what public, private money is available to carry out a plan.

12:50And then actually doing the plan and coming up with very realistic A to B to C implementable steps...

12:58...that our partner communities can take and we can help them take those steps if needs be.

13:04So how does this play out on the ground?

13:14Twelve towns got together. Their council of governments came to TPL along with a local land trust and said...

13:20..."Would you help us put together a regional plan? We don't think it's possible, but we'd like to try."

13:26And this is the first time that they'd done anything like this in the area...

13:30...but they thought that this vision process in the green print could actually help them get there.

13:36This is the, you know, the right-hand side shows the area that we were dealing with in Maine.

13:40The left-hand side really shows, essentially shows the process.

13:44A couple of things here we did somewhat differently.

13:47We always look at what data information planning has already been done.

13:51There's no point in reinventing the wheel, so we want to start with the best thinking that's already on the ground.

13:56Update that where necessary and really understand where the data and the analysis has already been done.

14:03In this one, we also, because it was 12 different communities...

14:05...did a public telephone survey so that we wouldn't go in blind to what the priorities were likely to be.

14:07Here's a simple case that we did in, well it turned out to be not quite so simple, in the Penobscot Valley.

14:11Although as it turns out, the priority areas, there are about a dozen of them that tend to come up...

14:16...and it certainly was the case here.

14:19And then once we'd done that, we put together a steering committee, the leadership group...

14:24...the council of governments, the local land trust...

14:27...the people we knew would stick with us 'til the end and had a vested interest in making this happen.

14:31They helped us pick the stakeholders. We got the stakeholders together.

14:35They helped us pick the technical advisory council.

14:38And then we were off and running and had stakeholder workshops and public listening sessions.

14:43And the first thing that we wanted to know is, What are the things you care about? What are the things that you care about?

14:50And what they came up with were six different conservation goals.

14:53Habitat, scenic values, working landscapes (farms), protecting water quality, public access, and recreation and trails.

15:03So those were the six areas that we were going to have to figure out how to prioritize in coming up with an eventual work plan.

15:12What was interesting for us of course, is that when people...

15:15...there was a broad diversity of how people looked at those different values...

15:19...and we came up with an interesting puzzle that we don't always see, which I will, which I'll speak to in a minute.

15:27We then, once we had those goals, we didn't disappear, but we went away for about three months...

15:32...and that's normally what it takes to assemble the data, put together the maps, so that we had a map showing... parcel-by-parcel showing how each parcel ranked for each one of those goals.

15:44So if you will, we had six different maps that somehow we would have to pull together... come up with an ultimate consensus-based design to move ahead.

15:52And once we were able to bring those maps back to the community...

15:58...we then had, and that's why I'm wearing this special little orange thing around my neck.

16:03We had a process where we used keypads, which we give to community members and stakeholders in these meetings...

16:10...and they're actually able to vote, real time, on their priorities.

16:15So if there are six different priority areas, they rank them, one to six.

16:19And that shows up as a summary graph and it also goes right into ArcGIS...

16:25...and creates a sample map that reflects those group weightings.

16:28So it's a wonderful opportunity for people to see what the implications are of what they want to see in the future.

16:35Either it's habitat or water quality, or whatever.

16:38There's also a very cool tool that's available. It's a swipe tool that allows you to have layers of scenarios.

16:43And you can take your mouse and just move it down the map...

16:46...and it peels away the top layer and then you see another scenario sitting underneath.

16:50And it's really helpful for communities as they try to wrestle with what the implications are for their priorities.

16:57In this instance, two different sets of priorities, rural and urban, and they really emerge distinctly...

17:02...and rather than try to get to the lowest common dominator or force a compromise, we said, "It doesn't make sense."

17:07In fact one of the stakeholders said, "Well why don't we just do it differently in the urban area than the rural area?" Aha!

17:13And as you can see, the rural folks cared more about habitat, scenic values, and ag land.

17:19And the folks in the city cared more about trails, recreation, and water quality, as well as habitat.

17:26And so, we ended up with a composite map and here are the six different maps.

17:31Again, red are the high resource, important high-resource lands.

17:38And the final result was a map, and I don't know if you can see it, but there's sort of a green central area...

17:43...that's kind of the urban corridor that has a different set of priorities, and therefore different values within that.

17:49And that was the consensus, going through this whole process, that people arrived at...

17:54...that allowed us to then move from there to the other stages of visioning...

17:57...the financial work, as well as the action plan.

18:01But this was the design that those 12 communities wanted to see for their landscape for the future.

18:08Way better than the normal reactive process.

18:11Now of course, being in the real estate side of things, we also looked at land availability, developability of property...

18:17...and a host of other things that didn't come into the normal run of those six different priorities.

18:23But it also allowed us to provide input on strategically what made the most sense, in terms of priorities.

18:31Once we'd done that, we put it up on an interacting mapping site... that the community was able to go in as well as the stakeholders, really see what was up there, understand...

18:41...change the weights around so that they could play with different sets of priorities.

18:47Password-protected access to parcel-by-parcel information for the people who needed that, but not for the general public.

18:53They were also able to use this site to print maps.

18:55Three of the towns are off and running right now, in terms of land conservation...

18:59...trying to take advantage of this down real estate market...

19:01...very much using the work that was done as part of this green printing process.

19:07We...and then we produced a final plan, as we do with every green print.

19:13If you want to see how this process works, my colleagues Breece Robertson and Brenda Faber...

19:19Breece runs our GIS operation for the Trust for Public Land. We're going to be doing workshops later on this afternoon.

19:25In fact, I'll probably ask them to come up during the Q&A period simply because I’m not a GIS expert.

19:31I'm passionate about what it can do for land conservation, but it's not my area of expertise.

19:38Let me close by saying that it's a wonderful challenge in that clearly we are bringing science to the table...

19:46...and using it to create designs that are really going to impact our futures.

19:51But when you're dealing with land for people conservation, it's not simply about biodiversity.

19:55It's not simply about hydrology. It's also about what people care about. It's about their relationship with place.

20:02It's about their relationship with the land, with nature, and with each other.

20:07And so, going into the future, things that we'd like to do to make sure that we're being more responsive in this... this GeoDesign process, is to have some kind of a wiki that allows us real time, or very quickly... get people's relationship with those places that doesn't necessarily come out when you sift through data...

20:25...because those relationships are very, very important to communities in terms of their sense of place.

20:31The other thing that we'd like to do, we think is absolutely critical to do... to insert climate layers of climate impacts into every green print that we do.

20:38It's so important to the extent that we're able to do it.

20:41And that's one of the challenges is to bring it down to a very local level for people to really understand...

20:47...the implications of climate change and what that is going to mean to their local landscape.

20:51Whether that's, you know, disappearing wetlands, or sea level rise, or rainfall, but the more we can do with that...

20:57...the more we can help to educate communities...

20:59...and the more they can take that into consideration when they're making their plans.

21:04So I’m going to stop there, and just thank you for all you're doing in your different areas.

21:10We're looking forward to learning from you over the next few [indecipherable].

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