Updated Wisconsin land cover mapping project breaks new ground

MADISON – A new and modernized view of Wisconsin’s land cover is now available to the public for use in multiple ways including forest management, conservation and urban planning and particularly in providing effective customized habitat and deer management plans for as many landowners as possible.

The two year Wiscland 2.0 (2-point-0) project combines ground level mapping, satellite imagery, and USDA data in a product produced jointly by the Wisconsin Department of Natural resources (DNR), UW-Madison and the State Cartographer’s Office. The project was authorized by Gov. Scott Walker in the 2013-2015 biennial budget.

“Wiscland 2.0 is the first update of our land map data in nearly 25 years,” said Governor Walker. “While deer management and our critical Deer Management Assistance Program were the drivers of this effort, the mapping tools created by this project can also support everything from deer management to emergency response and preparedness to economic development.”

The goal of Wiscland 2.0 was to map the current vegetation, water, and urban patterns for the entire state. Having a current land cover dataset is a critical element in research and establishing scientifically based management plans that can also be used by counties, municipalities and the public.

Such a land map project was recommended by Dr. James Kroll in the 2012 Deer Trustee report. “A statewide geospatial information system should be developed which provides seamless support to all state resource managers across agencies. This would permit significant leveraging of research and development dollars by allowing data generated for a specific project to be used by all.”

In addition to aiding the Deer Management Assistance Program (DMAP), Wiscland 2.0 can also be used to identify habitat types that may be under-protected so management activities can be adjusted. The data available can be used to calculate forest fire risk and ultimately create a statewide forest fire risk map. It will allow DNR’s Forestry Division to locate the various types of trees that are important to Wisconsin’s economy. It can also be put to use in watershed and master planning efforts, just to mention a few.

Coordinated through the State Cartographer’s Office, this updated view of Wisconsin’s land cover was accomplished by using data from the U.S. Government’s Landsat series of satellites followed up with a coordinated field collection effort combining DNR staff assistance and a DNR summer field collection crew that visited field locations during 2015 to collect land cover type information.

Funding for the project was provided by the U.S. Fish & Wildlife Service through the Pittman-Robertson Wildlife Restoration Act.

Anyone can download the new and improved Wiscland 2.0 data from the DNR website.

For further information on the Wiscland 2.0 project, go to SCO Project: Statewide Land Cover. For information on the wildlife aspects of this application, contact the DNR’s Frank Trcka at 608-267-7472.