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New Online Tool for Conservation

Rick Schneider
Nebraska Natural Heritage Program
Nebraska Game and Parks Commission

The Nebraska Game and Parks Commission (NGPC) worked with NatureServe to develop an online, interactive tool for conservation planning and conducting environmental reviews of proposed development projects.  The Conservation and Environmental Review Tool (CERT) makes a variety of natural resource and other map layers available in an easy-to-use format.  Map layers include boundaries of protected areas and Biologically Unique Landscapes, distributions of at-risk species, and 10 different base maps, including satellite imagery and USGS topo maps.  To aid conservation planning, users are able to explore and query different map layers.  They can also draw in or upload the boundary of their project, make and print maps, and download tables listing selected natural resources in the vicinity of their project.  The CERT will also automatically generate a Conservation Planning Report for an area delineated by the user.  The report includes maps of the area and summarizes biodiversity and other resource information in the vicinity of the site.

The CERT also automates the environmental review process.  Under Nebraska law, any project that is conducted, funded, or authorized by a state agency must be reviewed by NGPC to determine if it will adversely impact threatened or endangered species.  Currently, project proponents submit maps and descriptions of their projects to NGPC staff and the review can take up to a month, depending on the backlog of other submitted projects.  With this new tool, they will be able to draw or upload their project boundary, indicate the types of activities that will occur, and submit it for review.  The tool will analyze the project location and activities against the distribution of threatened and endangered species and other data layers and make a determination on the potential impacts of the project.  While some projects will be more complex and will require staff review, most project reviews will be fully automated and completed in less than an hour.

The primary users of this tool will be those working in the area of conservation, as well as developers and consultants needing environmental reviews.  However, the public will also be able to use the tool to learn more about natural resources in areas of interest to them throughout the state.

Anyone can use the tool to make maps, query data layers, and download information.  To be able to submit projects for environmental review or generate conservation planning reports, users will need to register, which can be done on the site.

Visit and explore the CERT at https://cert.outdoornebraska.gov/.