Northwest Boreal LCC Anthropogenic Footprint Maps Available

The dataset brings together data from several sources across Alaska and Canada. Map by ACCS.

Understanding the current, and historical, extent of human development is an important component to effectively managing ecosystems. The Alaska Center for Conservation Science at the University of Alaska Anchorage, in partnership with the Northwest Boreal Landscape Conservation Cooperative, embarked on a project to map and quantify the human footprint across interior Alaska and northwestern Canada and are happy to share this new information.

The maps and data are now available here:

A webinar will be held on October 4th to present the data and process. Details on how to join are available here:

The goal was to build a seamless dataset that spanned state, provincial and territorial boundaries to represent an initial look at intactness in the boreal ecosystems of western Canada and Alaska. This builds off work done by Ducks Unlimited Canada to bring together information from the Yukon, Northwest Territories, and British Columbia.

The data are available at the ACCS website.

Habitat loss and fragmentation are the leading causes of species loss globally, and although Alaska is thought to be 95% intact (Trammell and Aisu 2015), the location and intensity can have important impacts on local and regional resources. However, a detailed, comprehensive dataset showing human development has yet to be created for the state of Alaska. We expect these datasets can inform numerous resource and land managers decisions including:

  • Choose where to initiate or continue biological, chemical, and ecological monitoring
  • Identify potential remediation sites that appear to have significant cumulative impacts
  • Inventory possible restoration locations for development projects requiring mitigation
  • Utilize footprint data for conservation planning.

We anticipate that these datasets will help guide scenario planning efforts within and beyond the boreal ecosystem of Alaska, the Yukon Territory, and parts of the Northwest Territories and British Columbia.

The team spent significant effort on developing a comprehensive dataset defining mining’s footprint across the region. Historically, mines have been depicted by point locations which do not convey their relative sizes or mining activity might be represented by claims polygons which overestimate their actual footprints. With the advent of statewide 2.5 meter ortho-imagery, ACCS embarked on project to digitize visible surface disturbance related to historic and current mining. Nearly 2000 source point locations were evaluated from the US Geologic Survey, British Columbia Ministry of Energy and Mines, and the Yukon Department of Energy, Mines, and Resources.

The mining footprint dataset includes over 650 discrete polygons totaling 1200 square kilometers with a mean size of 1.8 sq kms. The measured mining footprints have been summarized at the watershed (USGS HUC10 – mean area 688 sq kms) scale across Alaska and summarized at the coarse scale, sub-sub drainage unit (mean area 16,000 sq kms) within Canada. This dataset could help inform decisions regarding natural resource monitoring, identifying potential mitigation/restoration sites, and for conservation planning at watershed scales.

Additional human footprint datasets include a comprehensive transportation layer incorporating roads, trails, rails, and airports across the NWB LCC as well as and energy layer and a developed landcover layer.

Project Details

WHAT: This project assembled datasets representing the past and present human footprint across the Northwest Boreal Landscape.

WHERE: Northwest Boreal LCC spans across almost 40% of Alaska, 90% of the Yukon, 20% of British Columbia, and 7% of the NWT.

WHO: Alaska Center for Conservation Science staff gather data from federal, state, local, tribal, and non-governmental agencies. Duck Unlimited Canada contributed Candian datasets.

DATA CITATION: Geist, M., M. Aisu , P. Lema & E. J. Trammell. 2017. Spatial estimates of surface mining footprints in northwest boreal ecoregions of Alaska and Canada.

DATA CONTACT: If you have updated data and would like to incorporate your information into this footprint, please contact Marcus Geist at mageist (at) or 907-786-6325.

WHY: The Alaska Climate Science Center and the Northwest Boreal LCC expressed a need for landscape scale datasets which can be used for habitat modeling, connectivity evaluations, and a means to more fully measure cumulative impacts.

WHEN: The project began in 2014 with data updates through 2017.

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