Conservation Matters January 2012

The Texas Land, Water and Wildlife Connection

Improved free online mapping tool will help Trinity River basin stakeholders

Improved free online mapping The Texas A&M Institute of Renewable Natural Resources in College Station recently released an upgraded version of its free Trinity River Information Management System (TRIMS), an online mapping tool for stakeholders within the Trinity River Basin.

The upgraded information management tool can be accessed at trims.tamu.edu.

According to developers, the information system was created as part of the Building Partnerships for Cooperative Conservation in the Trinity River Basin project, funded by the Texas State Soil and Water Conservation Board through a Clean Water Act §319(h) grant from the U.S. Environmental Protection Agency. It was developed as a means of helping stakeholders make informed conservation and habitat-restoration decisions within the basin.

“TRIMS provides access to the latest aerial photographs and information such as elevation, soils data, hydrology, land use, vegetation cover type and more,” said Amy Snelgrove, a geospatial technology manager with the institute. “This data provides the information necessary for conservation and restoration projects within the basin, particularly native grassland and wetland restoration, and bottomland hardwood establishment.”

TRIMS has been upgraded for use by stakeholders in making informed land-management decisions. Snelgrove said updates to the system included rebuilding the site’s home page and “moving the mapping application to a newer technology.”

For the many livestock and crop producers in the Trinity River Basin, the mapping tool can also provide tremendous benefits for land management, said Blake Alldredge, AgriLife Extension associate and education and outreach coordinator for the middle Trinity River project.

“For example, simple measurements of pasture acreage or fence-line length can be accomplished in TRIMS to help ranchers determine an appropriate stocking rate or rotational system for livestock,” Alldredge said.

Through the middle Trinity River project, Alldredge said stakeholders hope to achieve the goal of restoring and conserving wildlife habitat and improving the water resources of the basin.

“We can assist toward that goal by providing landowners with conservation planning information and tools to enhance restoration efforts throughout the basin,” Alldredge said. “TRIMS is a practical and useful tool that can be used to help reach that goal.”

Alldredge noted that a long history of water quality problems and increasing demand have led the state to place a high priority on the restoration of the Trinity River as nearly 8 million people depend on it for their water needs, including residents of Dallas, Fort Worth and Houston.

Habitat loss throughout the Trinity River basin has been extensive, he added.

“Agricultural development and encroachment from urban areas have converted native habitats and resulted in a dramatic decline in wildlife populations, such as quail,” he said. “Native grasslands, for example, are believed to occupy only 1 percent of their former range within the basin.”

Habitat protection and restoration is one of the issues being addressed by a partnership project to benefit stakeholders in the Trinity River basin.

The most efficient and least expensive way to improve the water resources of the basin is to restore native habitats, he said.

“Native habitats allow water to infiltrate into the ground by slowing runoff and reducing erosion, and then purifying the water by natural means,” he said. “This natural process prevents excess amounts of sediment from filling Texas lakes and the need to build new wastewater treatment plants.”

He said improving native habitat also benefits landowners by bringing additional income through increased hunting, fishing and ecotourism opportunities.

“There are many environmental and economic reasons for protecting and restoring native habitats,” he said. “We hope stakeholders in the basin will take advantage of using TRIMS and will benefit from the upgrades made to this tool as they weigh their land-management decisions.”

Workshops are being planned in order to conduct hands-on training with the Trinity River Information Management System. For more information on workshops, go to the Events page at trinitywaters.org.

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