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Developing the scientific foundation for the green economy

Spatial Informatics Group—Natural Assets Laboratory

The science and policy of natural assets and environmental markets are evolving rapidly and require nimble institutions to provide the innovations necessary to link economic and environmental interests. In 2012, the non-profit SIG-NAL was created to meet this need. SIG-NAL broadens the reach of the technical capacity and professional networks of Spatial Informatics Group (SIG) to create a more flexible entity with increased effectiveness in a dynamic economic and political context working for the public benefit.



Indian Land Tenure Foundation Awarded Federal Grant to Help American Indian Tribes Combat Climate Change


Little Canada, Minnesota (October 14, 2015) – The U.S. Department of Agriculture has awarded the Indian Land Tenure Foundation a $295,000 grant to help American Indian tribes combat climate change.


The Indian Land Tenure Foundation will use the Conservation Innovation Grant to develop carbon sequestration projects on over 200,000 total acres on the Wind River Reservation in Wyoming, Comanche Nation Reservation in Oklahoma, Santa Ana Pueblo in New Mexico, and lands in South Dakota belonging to several Lakota and Dakota nations. The Spatial Informatics Group-Natural Assets Laboratory (SIG-NAL) and the American Carbon Registry (ACR) are partnering with the Indian Land Tenure Foundation on the project. The grant will be matched by an additional $295,000 of cash and in-kind support from the project partners.


“In the past, outside groups have exploited natural resources on Indian reservations with little economic benefit for American Indian communities,” said Erick Giles, who runs the Indian Land Tenure Foundation’s program to combat climate change. “Carbon sequestration projects make it possible for American Indian communities to benefit economically by protecting undeveloped lands and managing agricultural and rangelands to protect natural resources.”


The Indian Land Tenure Foundation will develop the first greenhouse gas offset market guidance specific to tribal lands, will launch pilot carbon offset projects and will built an education network to help tribal leaders, land managers, and landowners understand the conservation benefits and economic opportunities for managing carbon sequestration and greenhouse gas emissions in agricultural and rangeland systems.


“We will offer outreach and technical support focused on carbon offset markets and low-carbon emitting agricultural and conservation practices,” said John Gunn, executive director of SIG-NAL. “The project will develop capacity within the tribal land departments so they can better manage agricultural and range lands that provide carbon sequestration and water quality benefits.”


The Indian Land Tenure Foundation is a national, nonprofit organization dedicated to helping American Indian nations and people recover traditional homelands and sacred sites to revitalize and preserve Indian culture, create prosperity for Indian communities, and protect natural resources and Indian lands.


SIG-NAL is a nonprofit organization that uses science to connect economic and environmental interests by accounting for the full value of natural assets. SIG-NAL integrates the science of natural assets with tools, policies and management decision-making for public benefit. SIG-NAL makes science accessible to decision makers and the marketplace.


American Carbon Registry (ACR), a nonprofit enterprise of Winrock International, was founded in 1996 as the first private voluntary green gas registry in the world. ACR addresses climate change by bringing buyers and sellers of carbon credits together.


Email John Gunn for more information about the project. Or follow @NatAssetsLab on Twitter.


Photo: Erick Giles (right), who directs the Indian Land Tenure Foundation’s program to combat climate change, discusses the carbon benefits of adding compost to rangelands.




SERVIR Mekong Project
Officially Launched

On August 31 USAID, NASA and ADPC officially launched the SERVIR-Mekong Program at Asian Disaster Preparedness Center’s headquarters in Bangkok. Funded by USAID, and with lead scientific and technical support from NASA, SERVIR-Mekong is being implemented by the Asian Disaster Preparedness Center (ADPC) with inputs from consortium partners Spatial Informatics Group, Stockholm Environment Institute, and Deltares. For more information, visit servir.adpc.net.



Lake Tahoe Basin Stream Environment Zone Delineation and Mapping Project Completed


Spatial Informatics Group recently released a new report that recommends improvements to water quality protections in the Lake Tahoe Basin.


“A Review of Stream Environment Zone Definitions, Field Delineation Criteria and Indicators, Classification Systems, and Mapping – Collaborative Recommendations for Stream Environment Zone Program Updates” was the result of work with local stakeholders, land managers, an NGO, regulators and technical experts, such as Natural Resources Conservation Service (NRCS).


The Stream Environment Zone (SEZ) is a land use designation unique to the Lake Tahoe Basin that includes lands surrounding and including streams, lakes and wetlands – those areas that owe their physical and biological characteristics to the presence of surface water and/or shallow groundwater for a significant duration of the growing season. In addition to providing water quality protection, SEZ conservation policies and management strategies support and protect aquatic and terrestrial habitats, provide recreational opportunities and enhance scenic quality and associated real estate values.


More than 25 years ago, the Tahoe Regional Planning Agency along with other agencies adopted a program to protect and conserve SEZ that includes policies, regulations, ordinances, definitions and restoration targets. Although the program has been considered by many as an effective means to conserving sensitive lands in the Lake Tahoe Basin, land managers and regulators recognized the need to update SEZ program elements to better reflect best available science and management practices.


SIG experts and local partners reviewed existing program elements and made recommendations for updating the program, including using new remote sensing data to update maps representing aquatic resources and SEZ throughout the Lake Tahoe Basin.


Several updates were recommended in the report, namely, changes to existing field delineation indicators and agency consideration for adoption of new and improved maps of aquatic resources and SEZ. Working groups recommended that agencies retain adopted SEZ definition and overarching delineation criteria that are based on a site’s geomorphic, hydrologic and vegetation characteristics.


The project report summarizes the results and recommendations of the effort. The report and digital maps are available upon request. Please contact Shane Romsos at sromsos@sig-gis.com.


New Publications from Spatial Informatics Group and Natural Assets Lab scientists and collaborators:


K.L. Larson , K.C. Nelson, S.R. Samples, S.J. Hall, N. Bettez, J. Cavender-Bares, P.M. Groffman, M. Grove, J.B. Heffernan, S.E. Hobbie, J. Learned, J.L. Morse, C. Neill, L.A. Ogden, J. O’Neil-Dunne, D.E. Pataki, C. Polsky, R. Roy Chowdhury, M. Steele, T.L.E. Trammell. (2015). Ecosystem services in managing residential landscapes: priorities, value dimensions, and cross-regional patterns. Urban Ecosystems.


M.W. Schwartz, N. Butt, C.R. Dolanc, A. Holguin, M.A. Moritz, M.P. North, H. D. Safford, N.L. Stephenson, J.H. Thorne, and P.J. van Mantgem. (2015). Increasing elevation of fire in the Sierra Nevada and implications for forest change. Ecosphere.


E. McGlynn, T. Buchholz, J.S. Gunn, D. Saah, and B. Kittler. (2015). Opinion:Low-risk Bioenergy Can Be A Critical Climate Solution. Ecosystem Marketplace.


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