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Media inquiries: Please contact Gary Waugh, gary.waugh@dcr.virginia.gov, 804-786-5045.

FOR IMMEDIATE RELEASE
Date: December 16, 2003
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Official state lands database debuts online

(Richmond, VA) - For the first time Virginians can sit at their computers and get a comprehensive view of public lands in the Commonwealth. The Virginia Department of Conservation and Recreation (DCR) has produced a user friendly computerized geographic information system (GIS) tool, and added it to their website.

It is the state's first comprehensive statewide public lands resource. More than a map, GIS combines layers of information about a specific location to give a better understanding of that place. Users can choose layers based on their needs - for example, situating a housing development with minimal environmental impact, tracking storms like the recent Hurricane Isabel, or selecting a location for a family vacation or Saturday hike.

The Conservation Lands GIS database includes land owned by federal, state, regional, interstate and local governments. Also included are land preserves owned by nonprofit groups and conservation easements held by various groups and land trusts around the state. It took DCR staff more than three years to collect and re-format information for the new database.

"State resource agencies, universities, land trusts and regional and local government will find this tool invaluable for environmental, recreation and conservation planning," said Joseph H. Maroon, DCR director. "Citizens can use it to better understand their watershed or select a location for a family outing."

According to Maroon, the database will also help agencies with economic development interests including planning district commissions and localities.

Making maps with GIS is much more flexible than traditional manual or automated cartography approaches. With the new DCR website, anyone who can use a computer and has Internet access can use GIS to search, display, create and print custom maps. Those with specialized software - staff from state agencies, localities and conservation organizations, etc. - can download data directly from the website to use in their systems.

Links to detailed information about specific parks or similar lands enable citizens to explore places where they plan to vacation or learn more about open spaces in their communities.

To access the GIS database go to the DCR website at www.dcr.virginia.gov and click on "land conservation." Or you can access is directly at www.dcr.virginia.gov/natural_heritage/.

For more information contact Steve Carter-Lovejoy at (804) 786-8377 or scarterlovejoy@dcr.virginia.gov.

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