Leon Sinks Geological Area, Apalachicola National Forest National Forests in Florida.

Do you know what’s awesome? The South Atlantic Conservation Blueprint—a map that identifies the best places for us to work together. Because no one can create resilient shorelines and connected ecosystems by themselves, people! How does the Blueprint identify the best places for shared conservation action? Indicators—measures of ecosystem integrity and conservation action effectiveness. What are indicators made of? Data. How do we get the best possible data? By asking for your help.

As you may remember from past blogs about forming the indicator team and releasing the draft indicator, we’ve been working for the last several months on a new greenways and trails indicator. It’s intended to make sure the Blueprint captures the places that reflect where people go to get outside and connect with nature. Often, these places are our local greenways, where we ride our bikes home from work or take long walks on the weekends. They are the trails we travel in our favorite national forests and wildlife refuges when we all we want is to hear the crunch of leaves beneath our feet. Greenways and trails can also reflect important wildlife habitats and ecological corridors. Are you excited about this indicator yet? Of course you are. There is just one little thing we need to do before it goes live… Get the best data we can for greenways and trails across the Southeast region.

We are committed to using the best available data we can find to inform our indicators. For this indicator, we’re pulling from a new source: Open Street Map. Open Street Map is built from people contributing and maintaining data about roads, trails, and more from all over the world. As an open source dataset, it has the benefits of capturing local knowledge, being community driven, and constantly improving as people add more and more information to it. Yet, while Open Street Map captures many important greenways and trails, we do see some places where information is missing.

We’d like to ask for your help—help, help! Go to Open Street Map and check to see if your favorite places are there. If you see any missing greenways and trails, it’s easy to add them in. You can see your contributions uploaded to Open Street Map in about a day. Sure, we could create a data source to inform this indicator ourselves, but it would take a lot of time. It would also be one more dataset that would be very similar, but not quite the same, as a lot of other datasets, and it would not be as transparent. We’d rather rely on the local expertise of people who know the landscape the best. Also, it’s fun! You can help us build a better Blueprint in less than 20 minutes and know that your favorite places are reflected in a shared map of conservation action.

We plan to download Open Street Map data to run the final indicator next week, but before we do, help us include the places and paths you love to travel and connect with the wilder world. Take a few minutes out of your day to see if you can find your favorite trail in Open Street Map and make sure its there. If you don’t have time this week, we will improve this indicator with new versions of the Blueprint, so keep on adding the important places to Open Street Map when you can.