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GAP Supports America's Great Outdoors Initiative

America's Great Outdoors photo
A woman and children walk along Boulder Beach at Lake Mead National Recreation Area in Nevada. Photo by Bureau of Reclamation.

From April through July 2011, Secretary Salazar and senior DOI officials visited governors and other high-ranking state resource staff throughout the nation to discuss President Obama's Americas Great Outdoors (AGO) Initiative. The Secretary's briefing materials included USGS Gap Analysis Program (GAP) maps illustrating each state's federal and state land ownership boundaries.

AGO promotes and supports innovative community-level efforts to conserve outdoor spaces and to reconnect America to the outdoors. The Initiative delineates broad goals the Administration hopes to pursue in the next few years: forming coalitions with state and local governments and the private sector; encouraging outdoor recreation by Americans; connecting wildlife migration corridors; and encouraging sustainable use of private land.

GAP is a core component of the USGS Core Science Analytics and Synthesis program. GAP's mission is to promote biological diversity ("biodiversity") conservation by developing and sharing information on where species and natural communities occur and how they are being managed for their long-term survival.

GAP maps used by the Secretary and his team were created by expert cartographers and wildlife ecologists in GAP's Moscow, ID, office using GAP's Protected Areas Database of the United States (PAD-US) and Species Distribution Database.

PAD-US is a national inventory of protected lands that allows wildlife and conservation professionals to find comprehensive information on those lands. The total acreage of these protected areas is more than 347.7 million acres, or 15 percent of the country's total land area (including Alaska, Puerto Rico, and Hawaii). PAD-US facilitates a wide variety of conservation and land-management efforts such as regional ecological assessments and strategic conservation planning by land trusts. PAD-US also expands the value of protected area inventories to the public, government, and the conservation community. This database is built to support nationwide analyses by describing all protected areas to illustrate patterns and possible relationships with other factors such as urban areas, migration corridors, and so forth.

As for the Species Distribution Database, GAP is creating species distribution models across entire species ranges for more than 2,000 native species that occur within the United States. GAP's goal is to build species range maps and distribution models with the best available data for assessing conservation status, conservation planning, and research.

"GAP provides information that can help in the implementation of Americas Great Outdoors Initiative," said John Mosesso, GAP Program Manager. "We have the most complete and up-to-date information available in the country on where the protected areas are and who owns them. What are their boundaries? How are they managed? GAP rates protected areas on a relative scale with respect to their management for the maintenance of biodiversity; in other words, are they being allowed to remain in a condition in which plants and animals can continue to live?"

This is all in keeping with the GAP objective of identifying gaps in the biological diversity in the present network of conservation areas across the country. As part of the analysis process, a conservation ranking is applied to each land parcel in the database.

In cooperation with the United Nations Environment Programme World Conservation Monitoring Centre and the Commission for Environmental Cooperation, GAP ensures PAD-US also supports continental and global decision making by maintaining World Database for Protected Areas (WDPA) Site Codes and International Union for the Conservation of Nature Categories for linkage to the North American Terrestrial Protected Areas Database and WDPA.

The colorful and informative maps used by the Secretary and his team are available to the public in large and small formats on the GAP Web site

Montana GAP map graphic
GAP created base maps showing the states (including Montana, illustrated here), main cities, some of the primary roads to orient people, and protected areas and national forests, Indian reservations, Department of Defense lands, Bureau of Land Management lands, U.S. Fish and Wildlife Service refuges, and so forth.