As a kid, I had a full set of vintage Funk and Wagnall's encyclopedia next to my bed. I read the whole thing, A to Z, and thought I'd be a genius if I could just memorize the whole thing. I didn't get past Aardvark. Today, thankfully, I have Google and a world of information at my fingertips. The wealth of information available online makes it much easier to plan ahead, from getting the best price on a vacation package to finding the right house plans to fit your needs. Using online tools and data can really help land owners make decisions about protecting the environment and minimizing harm to our watershed. It pays to know your property and to know what resources are available, so I did a bit of searching around and found these helpful websites:
The US Fish and Wildlife Service has a Wetlands Mapper tool - www.fws.gov/wetlands/Data/Mapper.html - that allows you to look at federal wetlands in the US. Under the ''Available Layers'' menu (located on the right after you download the Mapper), click on ''Wetlands,'' and you will see freshwater wetlands and emergent wetlands highlighted in blues and greens. On the top toolbar, you can toggle around to switch from aerial photos to topographic maps to a good quality USGS map with contour lines if you want to get a rough idea of drainage patterns. The website also gives you instructions on how to view wetlands on Google Earth. Remember these maps may not be completely accurate, but before you go planning an addition or new parking lot, this is one place you can look to get a rough idea of how to keep construction out of the wetlandsand you out of trouble!
The NY State Department of Environmental Conservation has mapping - www.dec.ny.gov/animals/38801.html - that provides a look at the location of state-designated wetlands and includes information on freshwater wetlands regulated by the state of New York (outside the Adirondack Park), streams, rivers, lakes, and ponds (water quality classifications are also displayed); animals and plants that are rare in New York, including general locations of endangered or threatened species; and significant natural communities, such as rare or high-quality forests, wetlands, and other habitat types. This website is not as user-friendly as the USFWS website, but at least you can get New York-specific information.
Using online tools and data can really help land owners make decisions about protecting the environment and minimizing harm to our watershed.
Want know about your soil? I found this website - websoilsurvey.nrcs.usda.gov/app/ - with a nice interactive soils map. You have to zoom in your area and pick the AOI (area of interest) box on the toolbar to draw a rectangle or circle around your area of interest, and then click on the SOILS MAP tab. It shows you where your types are within the box and gives you a table that explains what the abbreviation shown on the map stands for and what percentage of this area of interest is in that type of soil. It's good to know if you have loam or clay or gravel or silt before you plan what to do on your land.
This one's just for fun! Better Homes and Gardens -www.bhg.com - has a free garden design software that is simple and fun to play with when planning your buffer garden along the lakeshore to catch runoff and protect from erosion. Just go to their website and do a search for Plan-A-Garden. You can pick a size and generalized shape of your garden area and alter it to fit your custom dimensions, then place pre-drawn plants, shrubs, structures, grasses, etc., wherever you want. You can print out your masterpiece or save it to work on later. Their website has lots of good suggestions as well. I know there are a lot of landscaping software out there, both free and extremely pricey, but I found this one to be simple, colorful and fun.
As with any tool, these interactive tools take time to master and interpret, but they increase your understanding of our property and the connection we have to the rest of the earth. The Chautauqua Watershed Conservancy would be glad to help you research and plan to maximize protection of our waters by helping you to avoid destroying wetlands or important habitats, avoid increasing runoff or help you plan a beautiful buffer garden to preserve our shores. Please contact us for more information.
The Chautauqua Watershed Conservancy is a local not-for-profit 501(c)(3), member-supported watershed education and land trust organization based in Jamestown. Join us for a tour of the CWC's Randy Allan Hendrickson Preserve this Saturday at 9:30 a.m. For more information, contact the CWC at 664-2166 or visit www.chautauquawatershed.org.