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Searches of literature, databases, and pertinent research can be valuable in planning for conservation or development.  It may be helpful to obtain as much information and existing data as possible before conducting field reconnaissance surveys.  Using a variety of resources to establish a list of potential or known wildlife species, habitats, plants and other information can provide a foundation for these surveys.  Survey protocols, publicly available data, and habitat management information can be obtained from a variety of resources provided below, in addition to information already provided in this Guide.

Map Reviews

Collecting detailed maps of the site and surrounding areas is a key first-step in project planning.  A basic surface or topography map will indicate major natural resource features such as a land ridge, a swamp, or named body of water, such as a lake or riparian system.  Soil maps can indicate the composition of what lies beneath the wetlands and uplands as well as wildlife habitat suitability.  Aerial photos or satellite maps can provide a birds-eye view of the project and the surrounding area, with some of the soil, topography, and land cover data overlays.  Wildlife corridors can often be identified by looking at aerial maps where there are large contiguous tracts of land or ecological systems.

A geographic information system (GIS) is a collection of computer hardware, software, and geographic data that is used for managing and analyzing geographically referenced data and information.  GIS can assist in providing an initial assessment of a project on a local or regional scale and is often the first step in project planning.  It can be used to identify existing conservation lands as well as wildlife corridors across the landscape.  Data for documented and predicted wildlife species, habitats, critical wildlife habitat, and priority conservation areas can be accessed and included in the planning process.  

A growing number of online, interactive mapping services are available that allow users to view and query data, and design printable maps, without the need for GIS software.  Although all these resources are good pieces of information to have during the planning process, a field reconnaissance should always be conducted to ground-truth the available information.