OTTAWA Detailed land use and topographic maps of Ontario's eight easternmost counties are now just a point and click away with Agriculture and Agri-Food Canada's Regional Environmental Information System (REIS) Internet site.
Previews of the comprehensive system, which concentrates a number of land use and characteristics in one location to aid municipal planners and the agricultural industry in making sound planning decisions, were given at AAFC's Neatby Building here April 24 as part of the department's observance of National Soil Conservation Week, April 20 - 26.
The maps allow users to drill right down to individual lot and concession numbers to view such things as tile drainage patterns and consolidate 20 different land-use, topographic feature, ground- and surface water systems and settlement patterns on one Internet site.
The project is a partnership among AAFC, OMAF, the Ontario Federation of Agriculture, the United Counties of Leeds and Grenville, Prescott and Russell, Stormont, Dundas and Glengarry, the City of Ottawa and three area conservation authorities: the Raisin, Rideau and South Nation.
It's a pilot that may be extended to a national one-stop data bank of rural land-use characteristics, livestock concentrations, population patterns, soil types, bedrock formations and ground water vulnerability that will simplify municipal planning and agricultural decisions, according to project head Ian Jarvis, an AAFC Land Resource Scientist.
"It provides an amazing amount of information" in one location, Jarvis said. Most of the visitors to the web site now are planners but AAFC and its partners hope to see this expand to the general public, particularly the agricultural industry, he added.
"In the past, planners had to go to many different sources to gather all available information about land use and characteristics. REIS - developed at the Eastern Cereal and Oilseed Research Centre - takes the usual information about roads, bodies of water and settlement areas and layers on additional information such as land use capacity, tile drained land, soil types and ground water vulnerability - all important if the best decision is to be mad on municipal planning," says AAFC Science Communications Advisor Bob McClelland.
According to AAFC's Regional Land Resource Study, the cumbersome method of assembling land use information from a variety of sources are having an adverse impact on the sustainability of rural communities and agriculture in Eastern Ontario and the REIS project was brought into being to provide a readily accessible source of collated information for planners and producers to identify prime agricultural areas for protection in municipal land use systems.
One of its original goals, when the program started two and half years ago, was to provide nutrient balance information on a regional scale for agricultural expansion and intensification, something that has gained increasing importance throughout the program's development as attention in the agricultural world turned increasingly to nutrient management and Bill 81.
AFC, in partnership with local federations in Prescott-Russell, is now developing a nutrient capacity component of the mapping system, a serendipitous move given the movement of Quebec-based hog operations into the two counties.
Those components will map the locations of soil types and their ability to handle nutrients to give municipal planners and local councils science-based information on which to make decisions on livestock concentrations, Jarvis said.
In keeping with the partnership nature of the project, administration of the Web site will be turned over to the United Counties of Prescott-Russell in May.
The site will be run out of the counties' office in l'Orignal and its staff will be responsible for updating information as it becomes available.
The system will be demonstrated at a public meeting at the counties building in l'Orignal May 21 by Greg Gibbons, the AAFC technician responsible for developing the site.
Gibbons said it has gone through a considerable amount of fine tuning to make it accessible to those in rural areas who do not have access to high speed Internet, and althoughti runs faster with broadband access, maps still download in a reasonably short time with dial-up access.
The URL for the REIS site is http://reis.agr.ca