Frequently Asked Questions

General Questions
Conservation Priorities
Technology and Data
Using the Map Viewer
Related Initiatives
Personal Accounts

General Questions

What is LandScope America?

LandScope America — a collaborative project of NatureServe and the National Geographic Society — is a new online resource for the land-protection community and the public. LandScope America brings together maps, data, photography and stories about our environment from a variety of sources and presents them in dynamic and accessible formats. 


Who is developing LandScope America?

The lead partners are NatureServe, a non-profit conservation group that provides the scientific basis for effective conservation action, and the National Geographic Society, famed for its century-long history of exploration, education and inspiration. Primary funding is provided by the West Hill Foundation for Nature. Many other organizations are providing critical assistance; see Thanks to Our Partners for a full list.


Who will use LandScope America?

The information on LandScope America is useful for anyone with an interest in land conservation. That includes land trusts, state and local governments, federal government policy-makers and natural resources agency staff, national and local conservation groups, foundations, private landowners, and anyone who wants to learn more about America’s natural places. 


Why do we need LandScope America?

The United States loses about 2 million acres of open space each year to development—that’s nearly  6,000 acres a day. Suburban sprawl, poorly planned development, and other threats are causing us to lose important wildlife habitat, valuable farmland and forests, and other natural resources. Through LandScope America, we hope first to inform and inspire the public to take action; and second, to help the land conservation community be more strategic and effective at protecting our lands and waters for future generations.


What types of spatial data does LandScope America include?

We currently include spatial data for five themes:  Conservation Priorities, Protected Areas, Threats, Plants and Animals, and Ecosystems. You can view these data via the map viewer. Click Go to the Map to begin. 


What geographic areas does LandScope America cover?

LandScope America includes information about natural places and conservation issues for the entire country. In addition, we currently have a special emphasis on five pilot states where we have developed extensive additional information: Colorado, Florida, Maine, Virginia, and Washington


Who has provided content for LandScope America?

LandScope America relies on contributions from organizations and individuals across the U.S. More than 140 organizations have already contributed data or content (see Partners list). All editorial content is clearly attributed to the author, and spatial data is backed by extensive metadata describing the source.


I have material I would like to contribute; how do I become a partner?

If you would like to be part of LandScope America, we would like to talk with you. Please see How You Can Participate. And thank you!


When will LandScope America be complete?

The beta version of LandScope America was released in December 2008. Version 1.0, focusing on the five pilot states, will be publicly launched in spring 2009. Throughout 2009, we will continually be adding new content, with a focus on developing detailed information for many additional states. Our goal is to have all 50 states substantially completed by the end of 2011.


When will you add information about my state to LandScope America?  

We can’t predict yet when any specific state will be added. Our schedule depends primarily on securing funding sources and establishing networks of partners in each state. But there is a lot you can do to help:

  • contribute stories, photos, data, or other content
  • provide funding from your organization or make an individual donation
  • help us identify and build successful partnerships

For the next steps, please see How You Can Participate.

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Conservation Priorities

What is included in the “Conservation Priorities” theme on the map viewer?

Several priority-setting efforts are included that are national or regional in scope.  These include The Nature Conservancy ecoregional priorities, State Wildlife Action Plan priorities, North American Grassland Priority Conservation Areas from CEC, and American Wildlands Priority Linkages. In addition, for five pilot states—Colorado, Florida, Maine, Virginia, and Washington — we include additional conservation priorities developed at state and local scales. You can learn about each data layer in detail by clicking on "Map Key and Credits" at the top left of the map viewer.  


How did you determine what conservation priorities to include in the map viewer?

Many different conservation groups and public agencies have carried out priority-setting and planning exercises at varying scales. Our goal is not to include every such plan on LandScope America, but only a carefully selected subset that are likely to be of the broadest use. We determined which conservation priorities to include based on several factors, including:  scientific credibility of the plan, regional or national consistency of coverage, availability of data, and level of use or interest in the plan within the conservation community. Each plan has been developed for its own particular purpose, and omission of any plan from this website does not imply that it is less valuable than others. We welcome your suggestions for how we depict conservation priorities. You can submit your suggestions using the Contact Us form. 


Is LandScope America presenting its own priorities for land conservation?

No, LandScope America does not present a new or competing set of conservation priorities. The website allows you to view and compare existing conservation priorities developed by other organizations based on the values important to them. The basis for each set of priorities is described (use the Map Key and Credits button) so that users can evaluate its importance and relevance to their needs.   


How can LandScope America be used to assist conservation planning?

The website is not intended as a substitute for comprehensive planning tools and Geographic Information Systems (GIS). However, for those who are not GIS users, the map viewer provides a simple, easy-to-use way to view and learn about conservation priorities and protected lands in your area of interest. This is a critical early step in strategic conservation planning. To learn the basics of conservation planning, see the Focus and Plan section. 

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Technology and Data

Is any content password-protected or restricted to registered users?

No, all of the content on LandScope America is freely available to the public. However, individuals can register for an optional user account (also free), in order to save maps that they have customized. Other features of user accounts, such as the ability to post photos and stories for others to view, are coming soon.


How current are the data?

We strive to provide the most current data available from our data providers. We update data at least once a year and more often for datasets that are more dynamic.


Why does data about my land trust’s holdings not show up in the Protected Areas map theme?

Spatial data for most land trust holdings, including conservation easements, are not readily available at a national level, and are available at state level for only a few states. As a result, maps of protected areas tend to show publicly-owned lands while under-representing the impact of private land conservation. Also, many land trusts do not publicly share data about easements in order to protect landowner privacy. We respect this concern and will only provide data that has been made publicly available or has been voluntarily contributed to our effort. While we have relied on the best sources currently available, we hope that LandScope America can be a catalyst for improving the collection of data about privately protected lands across the U.S. To that end, we are collaborating with the Protected Areas Database of the United States (PAD-US) effort.  


I work for a land trust and would like to see our nature preserves and conservation easements depicted, but many of these properties do not allow public access. Should I be concerned about showing their exact location?  

Land trusts are welcome to use the website regardless of whether they wish to contribute data about their properties. No private information about your preserves or easements will be shown without your consent; only data that are publicly available or have been voluntarily contributed by your land trust will be included. Many protected areas do not allow public access, and users should not assume that public access is allowed just because a property is depicted in the Protected Areas map theme. 


Data about the locations of rare species are often sensitive and can be misused. How do you address this on the website?

While we provide many maps and analyses based on the distribution and condition of rare species as key indicators of biodiversity, LandScope America does not provide the precise locations of these species or of sensitive habitats. If you have a need to access precise locational data, please contact your state natural heritage program or NatureServe directly.


Can I upload my GIS data to LandScope?

No, users are currently not able to upload data directly, although this is a service we may provide in the future if there is sufficient interest. If you would like your organization’s data to be included in a specific dataset, please contact the data provider, whose contact information is available under Map Key and Credits.


Can I download data onto my own computer?

No, users can view, but not download, data from LandScope America. If you are interested in acquiring and using datasets, please request permission directly from the data provider. See the "Map Key and Credits" button for the relevant contact information.


Can I use one of your maps or other graphics in a presentation or republish it?

We encourage the use of maps and charts presented on the website for educational and conservation purposes. You can request low-res copies of such graphics for use in presentations only by contacting our Partnership and Outreach Coordinator. The source information as listed on the graphic must be included and the graphics may not be altered in any way. 

To republish any graphics in publications, on websites, or elsewhere, written permission from NatureServe is required. Again, please contact our Partnership and Outreach Coordinator. In some cases, other organizations are the data sources and we may not have permission to grant third-party use. 

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Using the Map Viewer

What is the difference between base maps, themes, and thematic layers?

Base maps are background image tiles for the map.  Your base map choices (the buttons on the top right of the map viewer) are Street, Satellite, or Hybrid. Themes are the spatial data content that overlay on top of the base map. Your theme choices are Conservation Priorities, Protected Areas, Threats, Plants and Animals, and Ecosystems (use the Select Theme button).  Each theme automatically displays several thematic layers—different data sets relevant to that theme. For example, the Conservation Priorities theme includes a layer for Nature Conservancy ecoregional priorities, a layer for State Wildlife Action Plans, and layers for specific state-level plans. Thematic layers from any theme can be overlaid and viewed together using the Customize Theme button.  


Do I need any special software to use LandScope America?

No specific software is required to access and use LandScope America except a web browser enabled with the Adobe Flash Player plug-in. We recommend using Adobe Flash version 9 or higher. Among leading browsers, we recommend using Internet Explorer version 7 or higher; Firefox version 3 or higher, and Safari version 2 or higher.


What technology is being used for the map viewer?

The LandScope website integrates several powerful technologies into a seamless experience for the user. Thematic data displayed on the map is managed and published using ArcGIS Server 9.3. Base maps come from Microsoft Virtual Earth; the user can choose from among street, satellite, and hybrid base maps. The map viewer itself has been built using an ArcGIS Server Flex API (application programming interface).

Behind the scenes of LandScope is a powerful content management system that integrates with a digital asset management tool. All place-based website content is geo-referenced using this tool, meaning it is tagged with latitude/longitude coordinates to specific places. The system can manage digital content of nearly any file type (including images, audio, video, and documents) and display it via the map viewer.


When I try to zoom in too close, sometimes I get an error message. Why?

When zooming into the map, base maps and thematic layers may sometimes display an error message. These error messages can pop up either because the resolution of the layer is too coarse to be displayed at the level you are requesting (and will be too pixilated to view properly) or the resolution you have requested is not available because of restrictions the data provider has placed on that layer.


Where do I find the map legend and information about each data layer?

Click on "Map Key and Credits" at the top left of the map viewer. Here you’ll find a list of the data layers shown, the source of the data, and links to complete metadata for each layer.


Why does the list of available data layers change when I move around the map or zoom in?

One of the most advanced features of the LandScope America map viewer is that the data presented are context-sensitive based on the current extent of your map view. If you are viewing a map of the entire U.S., for example, the map viewer lists those data layers that are most relevant and useful at a national scale. As you zoom in to regional or local views, the map viewer shows and lists the data layers that are most relevant to that scale, such as state-scale data.

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What is the relationship between LandScope America and Defenders of Wildlife’s Conservation Registry?

The Conservation Registry, being developed by Defenders of Wildlife and partners, is an online, centralized database that records, tracks and maps on-the-ground conservation projects. Currently, information on conservation projects is scattered, uncoordinated and ineffectively tracked, making it very difficult to determine whether conservation goals are being met. The purpose of the Registry is to display project information from multiple sources in one place to allow its users to understand the context, distribution, and effectiveness of efforts to protect and restore ecosystems. The first version of the database, covering Oregon, Washington, and Idaho, was recently released, with plans to expand nationally soon.

Like the Conservation Registry, LandScope America also uses an online map viewer as a primary way to access conservation information. Whereas the Registry focuses on detailed project data, LandScope presents a broader picture, including information on conservation priorities, protected areas, wildlife and habitats, threats, and people and the land. Nationwide in its scale, LandScope is also distinct in taking a multi-media approach, using photography, audio, video, and narrative to present stories about natural places and how people interact with them. 

While their purposes differ, both the Conservation Registry and LandScope are important new tools for the conservation community. Each can help users to identify priorities and increase the strategic focus of conservation activities. In addition, Defenders of Wildlife is collaborating on LandScope America by making significant contributions of content and expertise. To avoid unneeded overlap or inefficient duplication of effort, NatureServe and Defenders are committed to working together to ensure that the two initiatives are complementary.


What is the relationship between LandScope America and the Trust for Public Land’s Conservation Almanac?

The Conservation Almanac is an online database that summarizes and analyzes U.S. land conservation activity by state from 1998-2005. The Almanac includes acres protected, dollars spent, and policies and programs that fund acquisition of land for parks and open space. The Trust for Public Land has shared Conservation Almanac data with LandScope America and you will find references to these data throughout our site. For more in-depth analysis of these data, please visit the Conservation Almanac website.


What is the relationship between LandScope America and Data Basin?

Data Basin is an online tool for managing and sharing conservation data under development by the Conservation Biology Institute. The purpose of Data Basin is to allow conservation practitioners and scientists to explore existing datasets, upload or download datasets, produce and share customized maps, charts and tables, evaluate content, and connect with experts. Unlike Data Basin, LandScope America is not intended as a data management tool. We are currently exploring opportunities for collaboration between the two efforts.

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Personal Accounts

If I can access all of the website’s content without registering, why should I register and establish a personal profile?           

Registering on LandScope America gives you access to additional, personalized features.  As a registered user during the beta release, you can save and retrieve your favorite map views, and share them with colleagues via email.  For version 1.0, coming soon, we anticipate adding other powerful features for registered users, such as the ability to contribute photos and stories that will be published via the map viewer, and to manage organizational profiles for your organization.


Can other people access my account without my permission?

No, access to your personal account is controlled by your username and password, so only you can access it, unless you choose to share your username and password with someone else.

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Go to the Map

Use the interactive map to zoom smoothly from a national view to state and local perspectives anywhere across the country.

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Learn about conservation and open space in your state.

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