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Finding and Using GIS Data

The AGS Library's Guide to Finding GIS data and working with it for your specific project needs

Environmental and Natural Resources Data

Natural Resources and the Environment

Natural resource and environmental data relates to the natural physical aspects of the landscape around us. It includes topics like soil and bedrock type, vegetation, lakes and rivers, and animal habitats. Significantly, this type of data is often also concerned with the management of these resources. Therefore, data in this category may also include topics like publicly-owned lands and hunting areas.

This data can be useful for answering questions like:

  1. How does water drain across the landscape in my area of interest? How might that impact the likelihood of a flood?
  2. How well are suitable habitat areas connected in an area? What implications does this have on biodiversity?
  3. What are the prevailing soil types in my area of interest? How does this affect vegetation? What about agriculture?

Who has this data? Where can I find it?

Natural resource and environmental data is typically provided by the types of agencies that manage them. In the US, this is often state departments of natural resources, county governments, and regional planning agencies. The Wisconsin DNR, for example, maintains an extensive collection of this type of data. Many sources of national-level data are available as well, such as the United States Department of the Interior.

This data is also highly likely to be included in geospatial data clearinghouses such as the collection at the AGS Library at UW-Milwaukee or at the Robinson Map Library at the University of Wisconsin.

In this section

You will find tutorials for using two data portals where data related to the natural resources and the environment can be found:

Includes: Water, fish and wildlife, managed lands, environmental protection, parks and recreation, forestry, transportation, indexes and PLSS, boundaries, landcover and vegetation

Includes: Bedrock geology, groundwater resources, historical geology, and more.

Most commonly requested natural resource/environmental data

  • Soils
  • Lakes, rivers, and streams
  • Woodlands
  • Wetlands
  • Trails
  • Elevation contours
  • LiDAR
  • Parks
  • Watersheds
  • Environmental Corridors
  • Flood zones
  • Erosion Vulnerability
  • Ecological landscapes
  • Geology

The Contents of Finding and Using GIS Data may be reused with attribution for Non-Commercial purposes.

Finding and Using GIS Data by Board of Regents of the University of Wisconsin System is licensed under a Creative Commons Attribution-NonCommercial 3.0 Unported License