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Professor’s interactive map illustrates national monument proposal
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Professor’s interactive map illustrates national monument proposal

Jon Harvey, assistant professor of Geosciences, Fort Lewis CollegeThe recent announcement by the Department of the Interior that it proposes to reduce the size of Bears Ears and Grand Staircase-Escalante national monuments in Utah is one of the most high-profile changes to public lands in recent history. And Jon Harvey, assistant professor of Geosciences, is helping the public and his students understand those changes through interactive GIS maps.

“I made a web map that helps the public visualize the proposed reductions in the size of these monuments, in relation to the energy resources in the region, such as coal, oil, gas, and uranium,” Harvey says.  “I try not to tell much of a value- or judgment-based story. I’m just saying, here’s the information. It’s hard to get this information sometimes. But we’re in an age where it doesn’t have to be.”

Harvey’s geographic information system map tells a story when viewed in progression: the boundaries of the monuments before the proposed reductions can be shifted to show the revised boundaries of the monuments; the locations of oil and gas wells in and around the monuments are layered over the terrain; coal seams under the monuments are illustrated; geologic formations known for the occasional presence of uranium ore are highlighted; and viewers can see recreational resources, such as trails and points of interest, within the affected boundaries.

The map is so effective in showing what’s hard to convey in words that it was featured in a recent High Country News article and in an article on Medium.com. As of mid-December it had received more than 7,000 views.

Learn more about how students map their futures with the GIS Certificate Program, and learn about the GIS Certificate Program itself.

Photo courtesy of flickr.com/mypubliclands, the account of the Bureau of Land Management.

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