On Friday, I presented to the Northern Region Council of Land Trusts in Fortuna, California. The subject was using Google Earth and Maps as tools for land conservation. The work of local land trusts is very important, as they work cooperatively with the entire community to preserve open space, create trails and simply make our communities better places to live. Land trusts often operate on a shoestring budgets and rely on the honorable efforts of volunteers.
I've long thought that Google Earth and Maps represent great tools for these organizations. With little technical know-how or money, they can use these products to mark locations and parcels important to conservation campaigns and share them with the public. It can be difficult for land trusts to convince the public or government that a particular area is worth preserving, particularly if the land in question is in an obscure or remote location. Google Earth removes these limitations; you can fly people to any location and show off its unique qualities. Once again, it is all about geographical context.