UMass Amherst Awarded State Grant for Land-Use Survey of All 351 Cities and Towns in Massachusetts

AMHERST, Mass. - The resource mapping-land information systems section of the department of natural resources conservation at the University of Massachusetts has received a grant for $537,472 from the Massachusetts Executive Office of Environmental Affairs (EOEA) to survey land use across the state. The grant was announced today by William McComb, department head.

David Goodwin, staff assistant in the mapping unit, is principal investigator of the study. He says the project is particularly important because it allows the department to complete the first statewide land-use and land-cover update in almost 15 years. In 1985, UMass used the then-new geographic information systems (GIS) technology when it completed the last statewide land-use survey. The University has conducted all of the state''s surveys since 1951.

"What we are doing shows how a particular parcel of land is used today, how it has been used over the last 28 years, and what land parcels are left to develop, if any, in a particular area," explains Goodwin. Data is gathered from aerial photography, cartography, and GIS technology, as well as from more traditional research methods.

Donna Petersen, staff assistant and co-principle investigator, says survey researchers sometimes just have to pick up the phone and call the owner of a piece of property when they can''t determine the purpose of a structure visible on aerial photographs. Four professionals have been hired to assist on the project, which will take two years to complete.

"We''re producing an extremely useful data set," says Goodwin. "It''s information that will be used by many people for many years to come." While the data is commissioned by the EOEA for a number of environmental purposes, it may also be used for economic development, recreation, conservation, and transportation planning, according to Goodwin.

NOTE: David Goodwin can be reached for interview at 413-545-3589. The technology used in this study and other uses of GIS will be demonstrated at a special event on Friday, Nov. 19, on the 26th floor of the W.E.B. DuBois Library, from 9:00 a.m. to 1:00 p.m. As part of National Geography Week and World GIS Day celebrations, the Office of Geographic Information and Analysis (OGIA) and the library will demonstrate GIS software, as well as maps and databases pertaining to the Pioneer Valley region available on the UMass GIS Web site.