December 10, 2007
Geospatial Strategic Planning in New Mexico
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Susan Smith - Managing Editor


by Susan Smith - Managing Editor
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Industry News

Geospatial Strategic Planning in New Mexico

by Susan Smith


George Clarke, Committee Chair, State Geospatial Strategic Plan, spoke on the topic of “GeoSpatial Strategic Planning: New Mexico Thrills” at the ESRI Southwest User Group meeting in Santa Fe October 29-November 1. Clarke is also State Agency Representative - Governor's Geospatial Data Acquisition Coordination Committee Coordinator, and GIS Coordinator for the Office of the State Engineer (OSE).


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Geospatial strategic planning in New Mexico takes into account the state’s rich data sources, natural resources and the volunteer efforts of the geospatial community over the past 25 years. High on the priority list is the need for a geographic information officer, who would be able to coordinate GIT in the state, i.e. (from the New Mexico Geospatial Strategic Plan):


• Enhance local governance using streamlined business processes among state, federal, local, and tribal agencies.

• Maximize value for committed funding in numerous GIT projects.

• Reduce or eliminate duplication of efforts and resources among existing agencies.

• Provide leadership and instruction regarding the accumulation, dissemination, analysis, and management of geographic information.

• Educate citizens, state agencies, local governments, and policy makers to benefit from GIT.

The GIS Strategic Plan (GSP) meets these needs to achieve both short and long term benefits for the State. The GSP represents the first step toward expanding a statewide enterprise GIT infrastructure into an enterprise decision support technology involving:

• GIS coordination.

• Secured information sharing among government entities.

• Latest data and advanced service delivery by enhancing the existing state clearinghouse.

• Projects built for common application and data requirements.

• Shared GIT goals that satisfy the operational business needs of all users.


250 people attended a GIS Summit to discuss the need for a GIO. Proponents of the GSP conducted a survey of other states to find out how many of them had a GIO and how many wanted one. The surveys were conducted by New Mexico contractor, Weston Solutions, via phone. The states interviewed represent a cross section from rural, west, east, small, large, with varying levels of geospatial development. Over 30 questions were asked by each of the 18 states’ GIS/GIO lead.


A significant majority (80%) of the interviewed states that do not have a Geographic Information Officer (GIO) office believe a GIO office is needed and are actively pursuing a GIO office. About a quarter of the states interviewed currently have a GIO office.


Questions asked included what state clearinghouses had formal Memorandum Of Understandings (MOU) and/or Service Level Agreements (SLA) to provide data/services on behalf of state/local agencies. Did any States have "alliances", i.e. where sensitive or private companies such as utilities information can be used for public good, yet are protected.


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By acting as an enterprise, New Mexico can achieve GSP goals and objectives, and strive to bring together the various GIS agencies into a single organization with unified vision and purpose.


Contributing to the awareness of a need for a GIO was the state Digital Orthophoto Project which took an enormous amount of collaborative volunteer time and has been a huge success. A full time GIO with funds to support services would alleviate the pressures caused by relying on volunteer hours. “We are now producing terrain data for the State and have run into a funding shortfall for that project,” noted Clarke.


I
reported on the New Mexico Digital Orthophoto Project in 2005. This collaborative effort was accomplished separately from the National Digital Orthophoto Program (NDOP) because much of New Mexico’s land is federal and under the jurisdiction of the Bureau of Indian Affairs (BIA). Also there is not as much farmland as compared to other states, to merit National Agricultural Imagery Program (NAIP) coverage.


The project is a one meter DOQQ project initiated three years ago, and because of lack of funding, has relied heavily on multi-agency cooperation. Resource Geographic Information System/Earth Data Analysis Center (RGIS/EDAC) with Mike Inglis as chair of the Governor's Committee (GDACC) was the focal point for much of this activity. State agencies working to get this initiative off the ground, included the office of the State Engineer, Department of Transportation, Department of Public Safety, Finance and Administration, Cultural Affairs, Energy Minerals and Natural Resources, Tax and Revenues, State Land Office, Game and Fish and others. Federal contributors included the Farm Service
Agency (FSA), NRCS, USGS, Jicarilla Apache Reservation, BLM, FEMA, Kirtland Air Force Base, and Bureau of Reclamation.


The effort has created a great product that includes Natural Color and Color IR Aerial Imagery, and has been available for free
download for some time now. All data were reprocessed to county standards (SPC/mosaic) and delivered to local governments on portable drives.


New Mexico has to its credit a number of firsts in terms of its geospatial progress. It was one of the first states to create a council (NMGIC) 20 years ago, one of the first states to acquire a small line item fund to support a clearinghouse (RGIS), in the early 90s developed a state agency presence with the New Mexico Geospatial Advisory Committee (GAC) that was revived seven years ago, and crafted an Executive Order to create the Governor's Geospatial Data Acquisition Coordination Committee (GDACC) in 2003. This dictum was designed to meet the state's mapping priorities and requirements, assess, prioritize and request aerial and mapping data and coordinate these needs with New Mexico
congressional delegation, and identify funding sources.


All in all, the state has experienced huge successes with very limited state funding. Yet the story doesn’t end there. During the last two state legislative sessions, New Mexico has submitted bills that would create a geographic information officer position (GIO) and provide funding The support has been widespread. Yet in each case the legislation went all the way to the Governor’s desk, but was then stripped of funds.


According to Clarke, there is no lack of qualified people who could be the GIO. “The difficulty for the GIS professional is how to market the idea to state legislature. We know it’s of great value to have a coordinator and fund services to support a coordinator. The legislature says it’s a good idea but there isn’t any funding.”


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