Forest-to-Faucet Partnership: University of Massachusetts Amherst/U.S. Forest Service

Watershed Forest Management Information System (WFMIS)

(2005 ...continuing)

The Watershed Forest Management Information System (WFMIS) is a spatial decision support system developed to evaluate and plan (1) forest conservation and nonpoint source pollution mitigation (Module 1: Watershed Management Priority Indices), (2) forest road maintenance (Module 2: Forest Road Evaluation System), and (3) silvicultural operations (Module 3: Harvest Schedule Review System). It uses commonly available GIS data (e.g., topography, land cover, soil properties, etc.) and basic field measurements for road-stream crossings and existing or proposed harvest units.

Managers need to objectively evaluate the influence of this plans and activities (both positive and negative) on the landscape in order to maintain or enhance water supply and quality. Watershed managers also need to understand the potential effects of other landowners. The WFMIS allows natural resource managers to look beyond their property boundaries to better understand watershed scale characteristics, highlight needs and opportunities for outreach, and identify key areas for cooperative agreements, conservation easements, or "willing seller-willing buyer" land purchases.

The management of large blocks of forest land—typically adjacent to reservoirs—in order to protect drinking water supplies requires particular care and diligence. For example, while roads are needed to access the forest (for harvesting, maintenance, recreation, etc.) they are usually the primary source of sediment and disruption of stream habitat (at crossings). It follows that a thorough analysis of the road system is needed to provide a systematic way to allocate resources (labor and materials), estimate the probable service life of culverts (i.e., the risk of damage or washout), and evaluate possible upgrades of critical stream crossings. Similarly, if timber harvesting is used to bring about changes in the age structure, species composition, and spatial patterns of the forest, then potential effects on streamflow and water quality need to be proactively addressed to avoid adverse short-term impacts while working toward well-founded long-term goals (e.g., increasing resistance to and resilience after large-scale natural disturbance such as hurricanes, high intensity wildfire, or extreme insect or disease outbreaks). The WFMIS has a thoroughly tested graphical user interface, detailed instruction manual and documentation, and modest hardware and software requirements; this makes it a practical and efficient tool for watershed managers.

The WFMIS is an extension of ArcGIS® that can be added as a toolbar to an ArcGIS® interface. This software package has been tested, validated, and improved in collaboration with our colleagues at the Massachusetts DCR Division of Water Supply Protection (Quabbin Forest, metro-Boston water supply) and the Metropolitan District Commission (Barkhamsted Forest, metro-Hartford water supply).

Click here for downloadable publications on the WFMIS: (1) four-page overview, (2) two-page data requirements and process summary, and (3) comprehensive user's guide with an example application on the Barkhamsted Forest (metro-Hartford water supply).