Working with the Columbia County Environmental Management Council and with the endorsement of the Columbia County Board of Supervisors, CLC recently obtained funding for the county to train municipalities to utilize Geographic Information Systems (GIS), a computer-aided mapping technology. With this technology, municipalities have the information and infrastructure to make strategic conservation and land use decisions.
The program provides GIS software, data, and training to volunteers selected by their municipalities. So far, Neil Curri, GIS Resource Educator with Cornell Cooperative Extension Dutchess County (CCEDC) has trained 29 volunteers from 13 towns to use the software. A second round of training for additional volunteers will be scheduled later this year. CLC is coordinating the program.
The Hudson River Valley Greenway Conservancy has awarded a two-year grant to Columbia County to fund the training. The grant’s 50% match is provided through in-kind services from CLC and CCEDC. Training laptops have been provided by Cornell University’s GIS Lab; Cornell Cooperative Extension of Columbia & Greene Counties hosted the training at its Hudson offices.
The training and software help municipalities to:
- More accurately and efficiently make planning and zoning decisions
- View local parcel data in relation to land uses and features
- Inventory the features of land proposed for development – e.g. wetlands, topography, agricultural soils, and agricultural districts
- Look at a proposed development project in the context of surrounding land uses
- Assemble maps to inform comprehensive, farmland protection, and open space planning as well as zoning updates
- Work with their local Conservation Advisory Council to provide planning guidance, and more.
- Provide quick guidance on sketch plan reviews
CLC is organizing a GIS Working Group that will meet regularly to share ideas and skills. Opportunities for using GIS are evolving and becoming more accessible, and CLC will continue to work with its partners to find the best ways to share these skills with local municipalities. Volunteers interested in the second round of training should contact their town or village board to express interest. The only requirements are the ability to use these skills on behalf of the municipality and a willingness to share them with others.
For further information, contact Ellen Jouret-Epstein, CLC’s Community Projects Manager, at 518.392.5252, ext. 208 or firstname.lastname@example.org.