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EPA Offers Eco-Atlas for Projects

Tuesday, May 13, 2014

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Hoping to avert yet another project standoff over fragile critters and surprise health hazards, the U.S. government has unfolded a new nationwide, interactive, environmental roadmap.

EnviroAtlas is a collection of interactive tools and resources that allows developers, planners and the public a coast-to-coast guide to the nation's ecosystem services. Key components include:


EnviroAtlas is a collection of interactive tools and resources that provides a guide to the U.S.'s ecosystem services.

The U.S. Environmental Protection Agency led the multiagency project, which also involved the U.S. Geological Survey (USGS); the U.S. Department of Agriculture's Natural Resources Conservation Service (NRCS) and Forest Service; and LandScope America.

LandScope America is an online resource for the land-protection community and the public, developed several years ago by NatureServe and the National Geographic Society.

Informing Policy and Planning

EnviroAtlas develops and incorporates data from federal, state, community, and non-governmental organizations.


An overview offers a walk through the vast database and resources.

Much of the data illustrates ecosystem services, the populations who benefit from these services, and the factors that may stress or influence an ecosystem’s ability to provide these benefits.

Information on ecosystems, their benefits and influences are organized into seven benefit categories: clean air; clean and plentiful water; natural hazard mitigation; climate stabilization; recreation, culture, and aesthetics; food, fuel, and materials; and biodiversity conservation.

EPA says the data can be used to educate, inform policy and planning decisions; and to support future research in environmental management, planning, public health, and sustainability.


The site offers a "5,000-foot view" look at environment resources, economics, and more for policy makers and planners.

The long-term goal "is to build decision-support tools into the interactive map that will illustrate the relative relationships between benefits received from ecosystems under existing and alternative conditions," the site says.

'5,000-Foot View'

EnviroAtlas brings together data on ecology and environmental resources, community infrastructure, populations, economics and public health "to create a more complete picture of the relationships between nature, people, and well-being," according to EPA.

Using a so-called landscape approach, EnviroAtlas can help determine an area's likely ecological conditions, as well as the underlying reasons for those conditions. A landscape approach looks across connected geographic areas and can provide a wealth of information about a location within the context of its surroundings.

This “5,000-foot” view of an area "enables an understanding and visualization of important ecological values and patterns of change that may not be evident when looking at smaller, local land areas."

EPA notes that such views "cannot replace 'boots on the ground' field measurements" but says they can help determine likely conditions, especially when direct measurements are not available.


EnviroAtlas is a collaborate effort of government and non-government partners, including Landscope, a National Geographic Society project.

The EnviroAtlas data can be combined with other data about people and their economic, physical, and mental well-being to help evaluate the relationships between ecosystems, well-being, and the economy.

Learn More

The public rollout of EnviroAtlas in April followed a beta version of the site that rolled out in June 2013. Development of the site will continue through 2017, with regular updates available.

A list of the currently available data can be accessed on the EnviroAtlas data webpage or downloaded as a .pdf or an .xls file.


Tagged categories: Environmental Protection; Environmental Protection Agency (EPA); Project Management

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