Open Data Power: Better Natural Resource Management

November 10, 2015 7:00 am PST | Data as a Service

In this four-part series, we explore the ways that open data transforms the world. Sound extreme? Putting data behind seemingly intractable problems is the best way to tackle them, whether it’s providing access to nutritious food, combating disease, saving the planet, or, as in this post, using open data to improve natural resource management. 

Our daily lives rely on opportunities and products presented by our natural resources, from the food on our table to the buses we ride to the buildings we work in. Incomes do too, from logging communities to Silicon Valley. And all people benefit from time spent in nature, whether it’s a day at a local park or a week backpacking in the wilderness.

So, how can we balance our common and often conflicting dependencies on natural resources? You know it: open data. When people understand shared needs and can spot opportunities for balance and mutual accommodation, contention stands a better chance of yielding to collaboration.

Bring on the visualizations.

In Hennepin County, Minnesota, the Environmental Services agency’s Natural Resources Interactive Map allows anyone to search on a specific property to see its relationship to wetlands, watersheds, and more, including whether it’s part of an existing natural resources corridor. Members of the community can see appropriate places for development or preservation, as well as locations that might need mitigation or intervention.

And spectacularly, open government enthusiast David Eaves used open data based mapping of Canada’s wildlife corridors and potential logging areas to help bring about 2010’s groundbreaking Canadian Boreal Forest Agreement. The agreement brought the logging industry and environmental groups together in a cost-saving progressive collaboration that Eaves valued as “easily in the billions.”


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