Of all the mapping work that I do, I’ve often posted about my iNaturalist observations. The actual mapping I do for work, however, is much more complex and until recently wasn’t really possible to see online. This has since changed, in part, due to the Vermont Natural Resources Atlas, a website that offers a wealth of spatial information on natural resources in Vermont – everything from state significant natural communities (see below) to deer wintering areas to information on rivers to property boundaries and much more.
Much of the mapping I do revolves around “state significant natural communities” – natural communities that are judged by quantitative criteria to be the best and most important examples of their type in the state. These range from large intact expanses of the most common natural community types (like Northern Hardwood Forests) to just about any example of the rarest types (such as Pitch Pine-Heath Rocky Ridge Forest – below).
I haven’t mapped all of the State Significant Natural Communities on the Atlas, and in fact many great ecologists have worked on mapping them over time. However, I have had the opportunity to map to a greater detail than others have in the past because of the abundance of amazingly detailed air photos and other GIS layers that are increasingly available. Last Fall and Winter, State Lands Ecologist Bob Zaino and I created a natural community map of the incredible Victory Basin including the wetland/floodplain complex and surrounding state lands. Because this is such an exceptional site, nearly every natural community meets the criteria for state significance and thus is displayed on the Atlas.
To see the Atlas, go to http://anrmaps.vermont.gov/websites/anra/ . Unfortunately it seems to work best on Internet Explorer. Navigate to Atlas Layers —>ANR Atlas Layers —>Fish and Wildlife —>Significant Natural Community, and zoom to an area of the state, such as Victory Basin, to see any mapped state significant natural communities. Check out the other neat layers too.
This map offers the opportunity to see some of Vermont’s most interesting ecosystems. In a place like Victory Basin WMA, exploring for hunting, fishing, and wildlife/plant/ecosystem observation are encouraged, and these layers could help with any of these. Just keep in mind that these are wild, undeveloped places, and don’t venture off trail without being safe and well-prepared.
Many of the state significant natural communities are also on private land – permission was initially obtained to survey these areas, but his doesn’t mean there is public access, and landowners have also often changed, and many areas are now posted No Trespassing. Vermont has a long tradition of not posting “No Trespassing” signs on private land, to allow hunters and wanderers to roam between forests owned by different people, but if you don’t know the local area it’s always better to ask around locally even if the land isn’t ‘posted’. But, with so much great state land as well as the Green Mountain National Forest, there are plenty of natural communities to explore on public lands.