Harnessing Technology to Accelerate Land Protection
By developing and using sophisticated mapping and spatial analysis tools, The Trust for Public Land (TPL) has been able to dramatically increase its effectiveness in delivering its land-for-people parks and conservation mission. Geographic Information Systems (GIS) and related analytical tools have not only enabled the organization to be more responsive to the communities it serves, but these tools have also enabled the organization to play a stronger leadership role in advocating for parks and conservation and the ways in which parks can help address fundamental societal problems such as equity, community health and climate change. The following paper tracks the development and use of these tools at TPL since their introduction some two decades ago. It addresses their impact both on The Trust for Public Land as well as on the people and communities it serves in its parks and conservation work, from inner cities to rural and remote wildlands. This paper is written from my perspective as: the organization’s recently retired leader and champion of this technology from 1998 to 2018; and as the Kingsbury Browne Award Recipient and Fellow for 2017–2018. I conclude with thoughts about what other challenges these tools might help us tackle and what additional conservation opportunities they might open up. A closing series of maps and analyses illustrate TPL’s GIS tools and the evolution of our GIS/Planning function.