Winter 2016 BMP Q&A
Todd Thomas, BMP Forester, Texas A&M Forest Service
Q: A buddy of mine attended one of the recent logger training courses and was telling me about this fancy new computer mapping tool that the TFS has produced. Where can we find this tool and what are the details?
A: The tool your buddy was referring to is called “Plan My Land Operation.” Plan my land operation is an application that can be found at www.texasforestinfo.com. At this website, there are several useful tools that I encourage you to try out. Other applications that can be found there include an interactive forest products directory, to a timber decision simulator, as well as several other interactive web based applications.
Plan My Land Operation was designed to help loggers, foresters, and landowners to gather information to plan out their forest operations more efficiently. The first step in conducting your operations in a BMP savvy manner is to plan. On this application, the user can view aerial imagery that is linked to bing maps, historical aerial imagery dating back the last 10 years or so, USGS topographic maps, and maps that display only the hydrology of the area.
The first step is to find the location of the property. This can be done by zooming in with your mouse, or by entering the latitude/longitude of the site. Once this is done, you may use your mouse to draw out the boundaries of the property. If you have the boundaries saved you may load them to save you time if they are of the following file types: mmp, shp, kml, or gpx. Once you have your boundaries drawn, you may save them and load them later if you need to revisit the application. Acreage is automatically calculated once you get the boundaries drawn out.
The next tool listed on this application is the “Sensitive Areas” tool. This tool automatically draws out any streams on the site, applies an SMZ to these streams (defaults to 50 feet, but you can tailor it to your needs), shows any steep slopes (slopes greater than 8%, but can be changed to your liking), and any wet areas where rutting may be a concern. The application will even produce a written report on these sensitive areas for your reference. After this comes the “Soils” tool. This overlays NRCS soil maps onto the landscape allowing you to view not only soil type, but erodibility, site index, etc. If this wasn’t enough, the tool below soils is called “Operational Considerations.” This contains layers that show suitability for roads and landings, harvest equipment operability, soil rutting hazard, and others that give the user a view of landscape conditions that could hinder operations.
Possibly my favorite two tools are next on the menu. These are the “Culvert Size” and “Elevation Profile” tools. The culvert size tool allows the user to select a location on a stream and the area that drains down to that point on the stream is automatically drawn out on the map. Next a report is produced that gives the user recommendations on what size culvert would be appropriate for the location selected. The “Elevation Profile” tool gives the user the ability to draw out a potential road or trail on the map, and a graph charting the elevation of that path as it snakes along is produced. This gives you the ability to choose a location for a road or trail with the least amount of slope. This tool is also handy for any of you hikers out there. The last four tools on the application allow the user to measure area and distance, add labels, add linear features, and add points of interest. Once you are satisfied with the map you have produced, the last button on the menu gives you the option to save the map in pdf form for future reference or print it out.
That, in a nutshell, are just some of the options brought to the table by the “Plan My Land Operation” tool. I encourage you to visit the website and play with this particular application and the many others provided on the website. Don’t worry, this web tool is way more user friendly than I have made it sound. It was designed to be as user friendly as possible and is constantly being improved and added on to. If you have any questions about this or any BMP issues call my office in Lufkin, the number is (936)639-8180. You can also email me at email@example.com.