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A map developed by the Interdisciplinary Geospacial Technology Lab at the University of Tennessee at Chattanooga has won top honors from the Tennessee Geographic Information Council Summit for helping shape efforts to preserve at least 50% of the wildlife habitat in the Chattanooga region over the next 25 years.

The map, which was developed for the 16-county THRIVE regional planning initiative around Chattanooga as part of a long-range landscape conservation plan, was recognized as winner of both the Best Map Overall and the Best Static Map by the state GIS council.

"The area shown on the map is simultaneously one of the most bio-diverse and least protected lands in the Southeast," said Charlie Mix, director of the UTC Geospacial Technology Lab which created the map. "It's critical to have a blueprint to guide conservation efforts."

Since 1995, the University of Tennessee at Chattanooga's IGTLab has offered training and consulting services in spatial thinking, GIS data collection and management, spatial analysis, cartography and GIS application development.

The map UTC faculty and students help develop under a 3-year contract with THRIVE guides the efforts of the Natural Treasures Alliance, a collective of more than 30 conservation, outdoor recreation, and land management entities dedicated to long-term landscape preservation across the tri-state greater Chattanooga region.

The map ranks lands based on their climate resilience, intact habitat cores, wildlife corridors, and proximity to other protected areas and thereby aids land conservation groups in making the best property acquisitions to preserve wildlife and protect the natural environment around Chattanooga.

"There are few places in the world where the landscape is as storied and beautiful, and the biodiversity as rich and varied," said the "Cradle of the Southern Appalachian" report prepared for the Natural Treasures Alliance.

The map also was presented at the Esri International Users Conference earlier this year and was featured by Esri cartographers as a conference favorite to be considered for publication in their annual map book.

The conservation initiative by the Thrive Regional Partnership is supported by the Open Space Institute, The Nature Conservancy, The Tennessee River Gorge Trust, and the Lyndhurst Foundation.

— Compiled by Dave Flessner

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