Earlier this month, Virginia Governor Ralph Northam announced the release of ConserveVirginia 2.0, an interactive map system for viewing Virginia land conservation priorities. (Image: Virginia DCR)

Conservationists have always relied on maps. And that is never more true than today when almost everyone carries around instant access to maps through their phones. But this is truly an era of ever increasing opportunity for maps to explain stories and influence our world.

Today’s Lightning Update explores some recent mapping work both near and far. Even the maps that seem far afield from conservation, provide examples of how anyone, including conservationists, might use new approaches for communicating our values and issues.

1. Conserve Virginia

Virginia Governor Ralph Northam recently announced version 2.0 of ConserveVirginia, a conservation priority map based on a wide range of landscape conservation values: agriculture & forestry; natural habitat & ecosystem diversity; floodplains & flooding resilience; cultural & historic preservation; scenic preservation; protected landscapes resilience; and water quality improvement.

ConserveVirginia identifies over 6.8 million unprotected acres in the Commonwealth as important to conserve for the future.

Secretary of Natural Resources Matt Strickler wrote in April that conserving these important unprotected lands helps “… maximize land conservation dollars and support the critical national goal of protecting at least 30% of lands and waters by 2030.”

View the video for an introduction to the map viewer or find out more about the details of ConserveVirginia here. Our friends at Virginia DCR have done great work on this.

Clearly, this is the kind of analysis that points to the need for sustaining and substantially increasing land conservation funding.

2. The 2100 Project

What might America look like in 2100 in the face of climate change? The McHarg Center of the University of Pennsylvania developed The 2100 Project: An Atlas for the Green New Deal to explore the question.

The range and type of nation-wide maps developed for this atlas is simply fascinating. Some of them are worrisome, like projected economic damage (shown here) and projected climate-related mortality. But others offer windows into options for action to create a better future. It’s well worth scrolling through the pages of this atlas. We only have one bone to pick — how could they have missed the Chesapeake Bay Watershed as a focus of large landscape conservation? We’ll send a note about that!

A footnote: The McHarg Center is named after the late landscape architect Ian McHarg, widely thought of as the godfather of ecological planning and design from his work, writing, public speaking, and teaching from the early 1960s onward.

3. Black Lives Matter Protests

Alex Smith, a GIS analyst in Tucson, Arizona, has been tracking every location where there have been Black Lives Matter protests in the time since the killing of George Floyd. The map is eye-popping, and encouraging, because of the number and geographic scope of gatherings to stand up for equity. Take a look at the map directly and while you’re looking at it, listen into a short “Then and Now” interview with Alex Smith about making the map.

4. How 2020 Remapped Our Worlds

We’ve mentioned this before, but it’s worth checking back as there are new maps. Earlier this spring, Bloomberg’s MapLab began soliciting homemade maps from around the world to chart life during the pandemic. The submissions are incredibly creative, personal, funny, and more. Take a look at this short video introduction, and scroll through the many maps themselves.

All these maps make you wonder, what if each of us created our own pandemic era map? Or our own map showing what we hope our landscape looks like in the future? Or our own map of the places we want conserved?

Don’t forget to send us your 2020 land conservation success stories as they develop. They’ll land in the new and growing collection at success.chesapeakeconservation.org, a tool we can all use to show collective impact. See the checklist below for easy-to-follow, simple guidelines.