IDAHO FALLS, Idaho (AP) — Idaho State University's mapping research center has received an $180,000 NASA grant to develop software to help federal officials rehabilitate areas burned by wildfires.
"It'll look like Bing maps or Google maps," said Keith Weber, the director of the Geographic Information System Training and Research Center. "Where fire managers (now) have to go out and collect this data, they'll have all the geospatial data right at their fingertips."
Brian Holmes, a geographical information specialist in the Bureau of Land Management's Pocatello office, said collecting information needed to create rehabilitation plans can be challenging with the current system.
"The guys on the ground can determine some of the slopes and ... what kind of terrain was burned," Holmes told the Post Register (http://bit.ly/TcxTbJ). "If we want burn severity information, we go through the U.S. Geological Survey, and we have to get other information in other places."
The new software will compile 25 datasets that look at slope, soil information and fire severity and intensity.
When rehabilitation plans are needed, federal officials don't have a lot of time. The initial plan is due within seven days after a wildfire has been declared controlled. The complete plan must be submitted for approval within 21 days.
The plan must take into account if an area is wetland or used for grazing.
Holmes said the program "will help us by having all the data in a central location."
Weber said he hopes the system will be ready in eastern Idaho by the summer of 2013. He would like to see it used across the U.S. eventually.
"This tool brings everything together," Weber said. "(The program) will demonstrate to the user that 'this spot over here is just as important as this spot over there.' Without this program, you miss some spots."
Information from: Post Register, http://www.postregister.com