The USFS’s Focus

As an agency, the United States Forest Service focuses on land and resource management. Vegetation and forests are an important resource and comprise a significant area for the agency. Furthermore, having an accurate inventory of the vegetation and land cover types is an important first step for the stewardship and management of this resource.  

The San Juan National Forest’s Need For Updating

The San Juan National Forest in Southwestern Colorado had undergone a number of large-scale events impacting vegetation. Typically, the cause was wildfires and timber harvests.  The Forest Service manages their vegetation in a spatial database. FS uses it to model and forecast changes to vegetation based on current information.  However, due to recent events, areas of the San Juan National Forest due not receive accurate representation in the database. This made reporting difficult and inaccurate.  

FS approached Xentity to perform a pilot project focused on updating and correcting some of the high priority areas of landscape change. Also, Xentity partnered with AllPoints GIS to perform these updates due the expertise and familiarity with this program and the forest to perform updates for approximately 110,000 acres of the forest.  Multiple large wildfires and timber harvests occurred in this area and vegetation mapping did not reflect that. 

In an effort to assess and update vegetation for these areas, the Xentity Team worked to delineate and attribute polygons over a large area of varying elevations. We used high resolution stereo aerial photography, field data, and tools specific for capturing vegetation attributes.  Also, in support of this project a hybrid solution used to deploy a production environment. We used Amazon Web Services for the delineation and attribution work. Furthermore, in support of this project, Esri’s web-based imagery solution Excalibur reviewed and analyzed Forest Service imagery. ArcGIS Professional also used this.  All delineated and attributed vegetation data was submitted for review and acceptance by the Forest Service.  Once approved and accepted this information populated the Forest Service FSVeg spatial database.   

Up to Date Mapping

Through this project the San Juan National Forest was able to quickly update high change areas across the landscape.  New technologies were evaluated to accomplish this work outside the agency’s existing enterprise environment. This allowed the use of data and software not presently available.  Through the professional review and acceptance process by the Forest, we identified new opportunities for improvement and enhancement with vegetation tools. This allowed for further refinement in the future.