Mapping a Sustainable Future
Major forces are altering Maine’s communities and landscape. Over the past 15 years, development pressure has intensified in the southern part of the state, and millions of acres of forest have changed hands in the north. Rob Lilieholm, UMaine associate professor of forest policy, is leading an SSI team developing new forecasting tools to help communities better plan for their future in the face of sweeping change.
Why This Project?
Inefficient development patterns can increase taxes and infrastructure costs and undermine quality of life and ecosystems. In northern Maine, ownership changes in large tracts of forest in which land is divided into smaller parcels among more owners can lead to fragmentation. As the landscape becomes fragmented, it often becomes less open to traditional uses such as recreation and timber harvesting, and more vulnerable to development.
Planners and other decision-makers have only limited information to navigate such complex challenges, yet the choices they make today will affect the economic, social and environmental future of their communities.
Connecting Knowledge With Action
Lilieholm and his colleagues are using a technique called alternative futures modeling to simulate how different land use policies, changing demographics and other key variables could affect the Maine landscape. These models synthesize complex data from many sources to generate computerized maps that will help users identify suitable lands for various purposes such as development, conservation, and protection of working forests and farmland.
Planners, landowners, citizen groups and others can use these maps to simulate future scenarios and evaluate trade-offs and consequences, economic and otherwise, of alternative land uses. Such information will contribute to more efficient and sustainable development patterns and improve strategic conservation of land important for purposes such as food and timber production, wetlands protection, wildlife habitat and recreation.
- Rob Lilieholm, Forest Resources (team leader)
- Chris Cronan, Biology & Ecology
- Jeremy Wilson, Forest Resources
- Eric Gallandt, Forest Resources
- Spencer Meyer, School of Forest Resources
- Michelle Johnson, School of Forest Resources
Solutions article: Mapping Maine's Future (Sept 2011)