USDA Offers New Mapping Tool

Kelly MarshallResources, sustainability, USDA

usda-logoUSDA’s Natural Resources Conservation Service (NRCS) and the University of Montana, as well as other partners have built an interactive online map tool using Google Earth Engine.  The project was started to present geospatial data on the Sage Grouse Initiative.

“Bringing this data together in an easy-to-use online resource helps federal, state and private partners better target our work to restore and protect this vast landscape – supporting wildlife, rural economies, and the Western way of life,” said NRCS Chief Jason Weller. “This is another great example of how using scientific data and technology makes partnerships like the Sage Grouse Initiative more effective.”

Terrell Erickson, director of NRCS’ Ecological Sciences Division, unveiled the new mapping tool today at the Sagebrush Conference in Salt Lake City. Now available at, this first version of the tool currently allows farmers, ranchers, conservationists and other partners to analyze data on the encroachment of conifers and cheatgrass on key rangeland.

“This is just the first step,” said Erickson. “SGI partners are in the process of adding more data layers of value to the application based on input from our partners.”

California, Colorado, Idaho, Montana, Nevada, Oregon, Utah and Washington are the eight states covered by the first two data sets.  Public and private land managers can use the tool for free.

Brady Allred, a rangeland specialist with University of Montana who help develop the tool notes, “By focusing on such a large area we are able to provide the big picture – a better view of what’s occurring across boundaries, so each effort supports the greater goal and helps reduce future threats.”