The popularity of GIS and spatial mapping has been on a steady rise over the past decade, especially in the sustainability world. From urban bicycle trails and car share projects, to international social and ecological impact assessments, mapping has far-surpassed its nascent days of smudged satellite imagery.
Recently, researchers from the U.S. Forest Service teamed up with dozens of municipal, civic and nonprofit organizations in New York City to create the Stewardship Mapping and Assessment Project (STEW-Map). This interactive, online database tracks and links the work of “civic groups who conserve, manage, monitor, advocate for, and educate the public about their local environments.” The success of New York’s STEW-Map persuaded the Forest Service’s Philadelphia Urban Field Station to bring the project to Philadelphia where several conservation groups, like the Plant One Million Campaign and Occupy Vacant Lots, often working toward similar goals, haven’t really had the chance to assess what work is being done where, and by whom.
Sarah Low, the Philadelphia Field Station Coordinator and a long-time city resident, describes Philadelphia’s “strong but largely undocumented grassroots network of groups dedicated to conserving urban trees, water and open space” as being a community that could benefit immensely from such a service. “A completed STEW-Map for the city will reveal where conservation projects are happening as well as where they are not happening,” says Low, “and it will reveal links between groups that could result in filling some of those gaps.”
To learn more about the STEW-Map, visit the Philadelphia Field Station website.
COURTNEY SEXTON recently completed her graduate degree in nonfiction writing at Sarah Lawrence College. She's a "Jersey girl" living in Philadelphia, but is just as likely to be found anywhere else on the East Coast.