Mitchell Center Research - The Maine Futures Community Mapper: A Decision-support Tool to Foster Economic Growth and Healthy Landscapes for Maine’s Communities
Funded by: Elmina B. Sewall Foundation
UMaine researchers recently convened a group of Maine leaders in economic development, conservation, forestry, and agriculture to identify strategic land use opportunities and potential conflicts. This project proposes to build a web-based planning tool based on this research so communities and land trusts can better balance conservation with economic development.
During recent land use research in the Lower Penobscot River Watershed (LPRW), it became apparent that communities and land trusts typically do not have access to the diverse types of information required to balance the objectives of both conservation and economic development during their planning. Our tool is novel because it combines social, environmental, and economic information into one planning tool. Key stakeholders have expressed a strong demand for this kind of information, so we propose to develop the Maine Futures Community Mapper (MFCM) to provide this information freely.
The open-access website will allow communities and land trusts to identify areas that are well-suited for development but do not impact regionally significant conservation or natural resource assets. Initially, the MFCM will include maps for the LPRW and will expand as our ongoing research produces additional maps, such as for the Casco Bay and Androscoggin watersheds, where we recently expanded our work. Building on the stated need for such a tool, we will first hold a series of focus groups to ensure the MFCM includes the most relevant features for users. After the tool is developed we will conduct training workshops tailored towards online use and integration with stakeholders’ off-line datasets. Finally, we will provide a “how-to” training video on MFCM.
By providing users with maps of high-value conservation, economic, and natural resource assets and the potential opportunities and conflicts among these, stakeholders will be able to make more informed land use decisions regarding land use priorities within their communities and regional partnerships.