Using GIS Technology

A powerful feature of GIS lies in its capacity to combine mapped information with advanced analytic capabilities. The GIS database can be queried to perform calculations, such as distance and acreage, and answer a variety of questions regarding land use and natural resources that can be displayed in the form of maps and/or tables and graphs. 

GIS is usually coupled with large-format color printers which can produce large-scale (poster size) maps. The NRI maps should include either at least a one-mile extension around the study area borders, or the map “window” that accommodates the town and extends around adjacent communities should be filled. This shows the extent of resources that go beyond town boundaries and can identify opportunities for cooperation with adjacent communities.  A powerful feature of GIS lies in its capacity to combine mapped information with advanced analytic capabilities.

What is the GRANIT GIS database?

New Hampshire’s GIS network, known as GRANIT (Geographically Referenced ANalysis and Information Transfer)is housed at the UNH Institute for the Study of Earth, Oceans, and Space in Durham.  GRANIT is a cooperative project to create, maintain and make available a statewide geographic data base serving the information needs of state, regional, and local decision-makers. GRANIT offers a large computerized statewide database including many of the data layers required for a Natural Resources Inventory.

How Recent is the GIS Data?

Some data layers used in an NRI don’t change much over time. e.g., topography, soils, aquifers, watersheds, etc. Others, such as roads, tax parcels, habitats, land use, conservation lands, and rare species information need periodic updating. Check the creation date for each data layer being used and and find out how frequently the GIS data sets are updated and when future updates are scheduled. All data sources should be listed (with dates) on NRI maps and documented in the NRI report.

Where to find GIS help:

Not a GIS user? Take a look at the online mapping tools that don't require any specific expertise to use.

Many municipalities, the regional planning commissions and other professionals have skills in using GIS to create maps for a variety of planning purposes, including NRIs.

  • NH Regional Planning Commissions offer GIS services to communities in their service areas.
  • Natural Resources Consultants: many of the consultants preparing NRIs for communities have the skills to prepare the required GIS maps.
  • UNH Cooperative Extension's Geospatial Technologies Training Center offers a variety of trainings for communities and professionals in using ArcGIS products and free software for creating maps.
  • The Environmental Systems Research Institute, Inc. (ESRI) is a leading developer of GIS software and offers the widely used ArcGIS Desktop software package for purchase, as well as a variety of desktop and online packages available at no cost to the general public, including ArcGIS Online, ArcGIS Explorer Online, ArcGIS Explorer Desktop, and ArcReader. These free packages provide differing methods for adding, displaying, manipulating, storing, and sharing data. In addition to ESRI products, various open source GIS software are available online. Many statewide GIS datasets are also available in kmz format for viewing in Google Earth.
  • The ESRI Training website provides numerous free resources for GIS-related training and help.