•  August 31, 2020

    Automating Habitat, Game and Inventory Programs

    This article was originally published by Applied Geographics Inc. (AppGeo), a company acquired by The Sanborn Map Company Inc in September 2022.

    Synopsis: As demands for natural experiences grow post-pandemic, the strain on our natural environments and game become more serious. Sustainably managing these resources and their use is key to the future of our natural spaces. However, doing so requires coordination of many stakeholders and meaningful data that can be difficult to compile. 

    AppGeo and Sanborn are using our expertise in GIS to analyze and improve how we sustainably manage our natural resources. This webinar (recorded on August 28th, 2020) brings together Bill Johnson, Carpe Geo Evangelist at AppGeo, Caitlin Schnieder, GIS Analyst at AppGeo, and Jacky Davis, Texas Parks and Wildlife Project Manager at AppGeo to discuss the challenges and potential for automation of habitat, game, and inventory programs.

    The Deer Hunting Situation in Texas

    Johnson: “The program began in 1998, they had about 800 landowners. Again the enticement is they’re agreeing to implement habitat improvement plans on their lands, and they’re going to get additional deer hunting tags and longer seasons to use those tags… In the 2000s, the state launched a website to make this available to begin the registration process online… As the front end part of the process of enrolling became easier, the backend part, where these wildlife biologists would evaluate these lands and determine what habitat improvement plan was needed on the land to result in a high quality deer herd and then to determine how many additional deer tags to estimate, that work was not automated… They could not keep up with demand and there was no growth in the program.”

    Deer hunting in Texas is a 2 billion dollar a year industry and that means managing the herds is an important undertaking for the Texas Parks and Wildlife Department (TPWD). Setting the number of deer tags, maintaining sufficient habitat, preventing overhunting, and more are all interests of TPWD. However, 95% of Texas’ land is privately held, meaning that for any game management operation to be successful, TPWD must gain the voluntary acceptance of local landowners. 

    TPWD has created a program whereby landowners can gain deer tags for their property if they agree to make habitat improvements. While the program has proved popular, this popularity has created a new set of problems for sustainably managing the population. While the number of landowners wishing to participate in the program has exploded, the ability for TPWD to evaluate their properties and the number of wildlife biologists on staff stagnated. To solve the backlog and get the program on track, TPWD turned to GIS and AppGeo for help. 

    By combining soil, historical hunting data, remote sensing data, vegetation types, and more, AppGeo was able to show where deer might thrive or struggle, as well as how many deer the land could support in a given area. This information allowed TPWD to more quickly and easily determine how many deer tags a property owner should receive for their habitat improved lands. 

    New and Improved Workflow for TPWD

    Davis: “The landowner registers their property, this was done by snail mail. The biologist visits the property and maybe provides some recommendations, and the landowner is either mailed their tags or goes to the TPWD office to pick up their tags. This was barely manageable when they had about 3 million acres and 800 sites in the early 2000s. But the program has grown to over 28 million acres registered and over 1800 sites, and TPWD has barely changed their staff numbers to accommodate this… The new workflow is the landowner is able to register their property online, the application is able to calculate the number of deer tags that have to be assigned. Then the application, after some approval and checks, allows the landowner to print their tags at home, it’s just easy and convenient for everyone.”

    With automation and an improved online process, landowners have more choices and easier access to the program, and biologists are able to work vastly more efficiently. With GIS, biologists are freed up to do more important work. It also ensures that hunting occurs legally in sustainable ways by incentivizing landowner conservation. 

    An added benefit is that by standardizing the online process, biologists also spend less time compiling reports and submitting data to the state. This reduced administrative load means more time making an impact in the field. With more efficiency comes the opportunity to expand the program to other areas and animals, helping to maintain sustainable ecosystems across Texas. 

    Nevada Example

    Schnieder: “The goal of wildlife and habitat conservation is the same in each of these projects; finding ways to automate and make things more efficient. How this is managed and approached in Nevada is a bit different than Texas in that there is a much greater emphasis on partnering with other public agencies rather than the private public partnerships that’s really driving those efforts in Texas. NDOW manages around 600 habitat improvement projects which equates to around 27 million acres… as the complexity and amount increases the amount of time staff have to enter data about them or perform other necessary project related tasks like submitting invoices or entering other data will go down. Because of that it’s really important for us to provide a solution that facilitates data entry and is simple and easy to use.”

    Whether you’re working with private actors, public agencies, or anything in between, having data management and coordination is always a big plus. As projects get bigger and more successful they often become unwieldy and time consuming. By working with AppGeo you can reduce the time spent on mundane tasks and focus on what matters to your organization.

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