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Title: Improving landscape-level environmental impact evaluations.

New spatial data and advancements in GIS tools allow much more comprehensive and quantitative analyses of the large datasets required when making programmatic evaluations of the ecological effects of proposed activities that cover a large area or region. Understanding the environmental impacts of proposed human developments is critical to making appropriate siting decisions and designing mitigation strategies to reduce impacts on important resources. Impact analyses conducted under the National Environmental Policy Act (NEPA) in Environmental Impact Statements (EISs) or Environmental Assessments (EAs) are intended to determine the resource-specific impacts of proposed activities of federal agencies and their alternatives using the best available information. Impacts to ecological resources are often a primary focus of these analyses. Information used in NEPA analyses include some measure of the known or probable presence of plants and wildlife in the project area, with special emphasis placed on threatened, endangered, and other special-status species. Site-specific information pertaining to ecological resources is usually easier to obtain for small-scale activities such as a local facility, road, or transmission upgrade project, where the ability to conduct fieldwork is more often feasible. However, site-specific data is more difficult-and sometimes impossible-to obtain for proposed activities that could affect a large areamore » or region. These types of analyses often are considered in programmatic NEPA documents, in which a federal agency evaluates the implementation of a broad program or plan. Under these programmatic evaluations, the exact location and size of developments are often not known. Because obtaining quantitative information for ecological resources at such large spatial scales is difficult, programmatic impact evaluations typically rely on sketchy or partial information such as recorded species occurrences, species ranges, and general habitat descriptions. However, new spatial data and improved GIS tools allow much more comprehensive and quantitative analyses using large, readily available datasets. The availability of large-scale regional data such as GAP land-cover models or species habitat suitability models, combined with more robust spatial analysis procedures available through ArcGIS for Desktop software, allowed the analysis of multiple datasets at large spatial scales. This enabled researchers to surpass previous qualitative evaluations by developing a more accurate and quantitative approach for determining the environmental impacts of human activities at larger spatial scales. These approaches, combined with the utility of ModelBuilder and operability of Python scripts in ArcGIS, allow a more timely and cost-effective synthesis of available spatial data for programmatic evaluations and add a quantitative basis to environmental decision making.« less
Authors:
; ; ; ;  [1]
  1. (Environmental Science Division)
Publication Date:
OSTI Identifier:
1040691
Report Number(s):
ANL/EVS/JA-73286
TRN: US201211%%47
DOE Contract Number:
DE-AC02-06CH11357
Resource Type:
Journal Article
Resource Relation:
Journal Name: ArcUser; Journal Issue: Spring 2012
Research Org:
Argonne National Lab. (ANL), Argonne, IL (United States)
Sponsoring Org:
DOI, BUREAU OF LAND MANAGEMENT
Country of Publication:
United States
Language:
ENGLISH
Subject:
29 ENERGY PLANNING, POLICY AND ECONOMY; AVAILABILITY; DECISION MAKING; ENVIRONMENTAL IMPACT STATEMENTS; ENVIRONMENTAL IMPACTS; GEOGRAPHIC INFORMATION SYSTEMS; HABITAT; IMPLEMENTATION; MITIGATION; SYNTHESIS; US NATIONAL ENVIRONMENTAL POLICY ACT