Vermont Habitat Blocks and Habitat Connectivity: An Analysis using Geographic Information Systems

The habitat blocks project began as a platform to support conservation on an ecological level. The project involved a steering committee that provided guidance on how to use ArcGIS to create a layer of habitat blocks that could be applied at a state, biophysical region, county, and town scale. Habitat blocks were designated based on existing GIS data and visible elements seen in satellite imagery. After its designation or mapping, each habitat block was ranked for 11 factors relating to biological and physical landscape diversity, as well as the likelihood of future development within that specific block.

The vision for this data layer was to identify interior habitat and battle the effects of fragmentation across Vermont. Additionally, this habitat blocks data layer can be used to assess wildlife corridors and habitat connectivity that may inform management decisions in the future. The final habitat blocks data layer is available to the public through the Vermont Agency of Natural Resources "Natural Resource Atlas"
website and on VCGI http://vcgi.vermont.gov as "EcologicHabitat_HABITATBLKS "

Project Contact: 
Eric Sorenson
Project Contact Email: 
Town: 
STATEWIDE
Year Completed: 
2014
Project Lifespan: 
2007-2014
Keywords: 
Forest Land
Land Protection
Water
Wetland
Wildlife
Other Keywords: 
Habitat and forest blocks
Project Accomplishments: 

The Habitat Block project identified habitat blocks which was a high priority recommendation in Vermont’s 2005 Wildlife Action Plan. Additionally, the product of this project is now a public resource that promotes community understanding of Vermont’s important wildlife resources and wildlife road crossing areas. Overall, the habitat blocks dataset was able to provide crucial data for future ecological conservation efforts within the state of Vermont.

Project Partners: 

Vermont Fish and Wildlife Department
Vermont Land Trust
Vermont Department of Forests, Parks and Recreation
The Nature Conservancy
Audubon Vermont
Green Mountain National Forest
Vermont Agency of Natural Resources

Critical to Success: 
The success of the creation of the habitat blocks data set is largely due to the involvement of Jon Osborne and the Vermont Land Trust in creating the actual GIS layer as the project deliverable. Additionally, the participation and time dedicated to the project by all members of the steering committee and the support of Agency of Natural Resources management were major parts of completing this resource.
Challenges: 
Designating and ranking habitat blocks for their importance as an ecological resource for wildlife proved to be a very large challenge in the creation of this data set. Due to the subjective nature of this task, the steering committee found it difficult to decide which ecological factors should have the highest weightings for high quality habitat.
Ref Doc Desc: 
The attached habitat block report provided background on the ecological importance of unfragmented forest/habitat blocks and the details of how habitat blocks were identified and ranked.