Resource and Habitat Mapping and Assessment, Strategic Planning

North Carolina Wildlife Resources Commission (NCWRC)

Overview

This project began in 2014 with mapping approximately 200,000 acres and installing over 11,000 inventory plots through 2015.

Details

The 200,000 acres of NCWRC lands were mapped in a GIS database. After mapping, standards were developed (minimum and maximum polygon sizes by type and dealing with multipart stands), the digitizing process and priorities were outlined. These included reviewing the boundary lines with current, high-resolution imagery, noting any discrepancies including shifts. Current wildlife management area compartments were used as a guide for a first-pass through the mapping effort. Developed areas (parking lots, buildings, etc.) were accurately determined and eliminated from the stands layer. If roads were wide enough, those were buffered appropriately, as were utility right-of-ways. Waterways were also delineated and removed from forest stands as were areas on non-forest, such as grasslands, fields, etc.
Forested stands were then mapped according to a density of crown classification. The method utilized Iso-Classification of Near Infrared NAIP to identify tree vs. non-tree pixels aggregated to 30 meters and classified by mean pixel value into 4 levels of density: 0-25%, 26-50%, 51-75% and 76-100% closure. Height and species classifications were assigned utilizing Near-Color Infrared NAIP imagery and an Interactive Supervised Stand Classification.

Outcomes

After the initial mapping and forest inventory, reporting and analytics revealed the need to drastically increase the levels of harvesting in order to meet the critical habitat requirements of wildlife on the NCWRC’s lands. This is due to the overabundance of stocking levels and older age classes throughout the entire WMA system.

Project Status: More acres and plots will be added over the next several years to provide the NCWRC a full forest inventory system to manage their resources for wildlife, recreation and ecological values. Efforts are underway to begin a strategic planning process that will help to guide restoration efforts, and will eventually produce operational plans.