The Lincoln Institute of Land Policy today launched a new enterprise to expand the use of advanced technology for land and water conservation—The Center for Geospatial Solutions (CGS). The center will give people and organizations the tools they need to manage land and water resources with precision, at the scale required to confront pressing challenges such as climate change, loss of habitat, and water scarcity.
The center will provide data, conduct analysis, and perform specialized consulting services that enable organizations of all sizes in the nonprofit, public, and private sectors to deploy geographic information systems (GIS), remote sensing, and other geospatial technologies. The center will help practitioners to overcome barriers such as a lack of staffing, resources, or expertise, which have hindered the adoption of geospatial technology, especially in the nonprofit sector.
“If land and water managers, conservationists, and governments are to meet rapidly accelerating social, economic, and environmental challenges, including climate change, they need to work together at larger scales and make use of every possible tool,” said Anne Scott, executive director for the Center for Geospatial Solutions. “The Center for Geospatial Solutions will enhance collective access to better data and analysis, so that practitioners and decisionmakers can act collaboratively on the best information available.”
The center will deliver services directly to nonprofit organizations, foundations, governments, and businesses, and will also work with funders to guide and administer grants. The center will also use the resources and expertise of the Lincoln Institute, which is organized around the achievement of six goals: sustainably managed land and water resources, low-carbon, climate-resilient communities and regions, efficient and equitable tax systems, reduced poverty and spatial inequality, fiscally healthy communities and regions, and functional land markets and reduced informality.
“My wife, Laura, and I developed Esri to help people make better decisions for our world, and that is what the Center for Geospatial Solutions is accomplishing,” said Jack Dangermond, President and CEO of Environmental Systems Research Institute (Esri). “The Center for Geospatial Solutions will move the global environmental field over the next decade to meet goals set forth by scientists to save and restore our planet. The center's combination of partnerships, shared resources, advanced data science and analysis fills an important niche to bring geospatial technology solutions to environmental organizations worldwide.”
The center will prioritize access to technology for people and communities that have been historically marginalized, governments in the developing world, under-resourced nonprofit organizations, startups, and businesses operating in developing or restricted economies. The center will build customized tools that can be tailored to fit the size and capacity of any organization.
“These are unprecedented times, which require broad vision combined with the practical implementation of innovative solutions,” said Breece Robertson, director of partnerships and strategy for the Center for Geospatial Solutions. “We can’t address global challenges like climate change and inequity without access to data, science and technologies that enable everyone to act effectively.”
The potential for geospatial technology to improve conservation is well demonstrated. In one powerful application, regional planners in Tucson, Arizona, worked with nonprofit partners, including the Lincoln Institute’s Babbitt Center for Land and Water Policy, to map the tree canopy, surface temperatures, and other data to help communities to better-manage stormwater, and to prioritize where to plant trees. In another case, Denver’s regional planning agency is using high-resolution maps to classify land cover into eight categories for a wide range of possible uses, including to understand habitat connectivity and quality to guide investment in green infrastructure.
In addition to advancing land and water conservation, geospatial technology can inform decisions in urban contexts. Its applications include analyzing cities’ carbon footprints, exploring the conservation potential of brownfield sites, revealing local variations in air quality, and mapping parks, open spaces, and urban corridors for wildlife.
“Some organizations are already using geospatial technology to understand what is happening on the ground with greater and greater precision,” said Jeffrey Allenby, director of geospatial technology for the Center for Geospatial Solutions. “The center will bring this capability to organizations of all sizes and scales by building customized tools that are easy to use for all staff, even those with no background or training in technology.”
“The center builds on the Lincoln Institute’s long track record of pioneering ideas that have transformed land policy,” Lincoln Institute President and CEO George W. “Mac” McCarthy wrote in an essay in Land Lines, the magazine of the Lincoln Institute. “The Center for Geospatial Solutions represents another transformational idea—by making land, water, and mapping technology universal, we can enable people and organizations to collaborate and achieve impact that is orders-of-magnitude greater than what they can accomplish today. Like lifting a fog, applying geospatial technology will enable anyone to see what is happening anywhere on the Earth. It will make the planet feel that much smaller, and the solutions to humanity’s toughest problems that much easier to grasp.”
Leadership of the Center for Geospatial Solutions
Anne Scott, Executive Director
Anne brings leadership experience in public and community health and international development, and she is particularly passionate about achieving cost-effective outcomes that can be replicated and scaled. She has lived and worked in Asia, Africa, and the Middle East on the implementation and evaluation of large-scale health and environmental programs funded by the U.S. and European governments, and philanthropic foundations. Anne has held executive positions at the Children’s Investment Fund Foundation in London, the Charlottesville (Virginia) Area Community Foundation and, most recently, Boston-based Pathfinder International. She is a prior board chair of the Chesapeake Conservancy. Anne has a Ph.D. in medical anthropology and an MBA in finance, as well as post-doctoral qualifications in science and diplomacy, and health and child survival.
Jeffrey Allenby, Director of Geospatial Technology.
Jeff brings a wealth of experience developing systems-focused solutions at the intersection of technology and the natural world. Prior to joining the Lincoln Institute, Jeff was the director of conservation technology at the Chesapeake Conservancy and cofounder of the Conservancy’s Conservation Innovation Center, building it from scratch into a globally recognized pioneer in the application of technology to improve environmental decision making in the Chesapeake Bay and across the world. Jeff worked previously for the University of Maryland Center for Environmental Science and the Maryland Department of Natural Resources on projects to support local climate change adaptation. Jeff has a M.E.M. and a certificate in geospatial analysis from Duke University and a B.S. from the University of Richmond. Jeff also serves as a member of the advisory board for the Internet of Water.
Breece Robertson, Director of Partnerships and Strategy
Breece has more than 18 years of experience leading collaborative and strategic initiatives that leverage data-driven platforms, GIS, research, and planning for the park and conservation fields. Breece combines geospatial technology and storytelling to inspire, activate, educate, and engage. During her career at The Trust for Public Land, she led geospatial innovations that supported the protection of 3,000+ places, over 2+ million acres of land, provided park access to over 9 million people, and achieved $74 billion in voter-approved funding for parks and conservation. She is a skilled leader, collaborator, implementer, and creative visionary with a legacy of building award-winning teams and community-driven GIS approaches for strategic conservation and park creation. Esri, the world’s leader in geographic information system (GIS) technology, twice has honored Robertson for innovation in helping communities meet park and conservation goals. In 2006, she was awarded the Esri Special Achievement in GIS award and in 2012, the “Making a Difference” award – a prestigious presidential award.
About the Lincoln Institute of Land Policy
The Lincoln Institute of Land Policy seeks to improve quality of life through the effective use, taxation, and stewardship of land. A nonprofit private operating foundation whose origins date to 1946, the Lincoln Institute researches and recommends creative approaches to land as a solution to economic, social, and environmental challenges. Through education, training, publications, and events, we integrate theory and practice to inform public policy decisions worldwide.
Will Jason is director of communications at the Lincoln Institute.
Image: NOAA Data Enterprise (NDE) VIIRS daily global active fire detections, UMD Geographical Sciences VIIRS Active Fire site, http://viirsfire.geog.umd.edu/pages/mapsData.php.