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Kansas: An Example of GAP Partnering

Jack Cully and Glennis Kaufman
Kansas Cooperative Fish and Wildlife Research Unit, Kansas State University, Manhattan

"I would encourage us to restore the use of the word "partner" in describing the agencies and individuals with whom we work. I admit that like most good words, "partner" has been overworked and trivialized in recent years. Yet it conveys the sense of collaboration, colleagueship, and mutuality of goals and responsibilities that should mark our relationships with others. It is a way of seeing ourselves that I would prefer to cultivate. "Clients" and "customers" encourage a self-image that is not good for the long-term health of our scientific enterprise. Consulting firms have clients and profit-making businesses have customers (TQM notwithstanding). To the extent that words create a self-image and self-images have a way of becoming self-fulfilling, I encourage you to encourage us to worry a bit about such matters."

(James Kushlan, Director,
USGS Patuxent Wildlife Research Center)

When Mike Scott visited Kansas before establishing a Gap Analysis project (KS-GAP) here, I was impressed by his description of the potential for GAP to provide a catalyst for partnerships across the state. GAP provides a research program for university scholars in geography, wildlife biology, botany, and landscape ecology. The value to wildlife management agencies, both state and federal, is obvious. In addition, land cover mapping is useful to state health agencies, water departments, and the departments of agriculture to understand movement patterns of disease vectors, water, and agricultural chemicals. Other state and federal agencies need information about the distribution of biological resources early in their planning processes to keep from running afoul of environmental regulations.

At the beginning, we were faced with some pragmatic choices about how to organize KS-GAP. The Coop Unit, which took the lead in Kansas, was interested in modeling vertebrate distributions, but did not have the level of expertise in remote sensing, geographic information systems, or plant community distributions present elsewhere in the state. Our first decision was to involve people with the greatest skill levels on each topic that were available statewide, rather than to retain the entire project at the Coop Unit, or even at Kansas State University (KSU). Once that decision was made, the truly difficult decisions were to choose among the highly qualified programs and individuals at the state’s universities.

The Kansas Biological Survey (KBS) at the University of Kansas houses the Kansas State Heritage Program and the Kansas Applied Remote Sensing Laboratory (KARS). The two programs at KBS recently had completed another statewide mapping project of a level 1 classification of cover types. Although that project only distinguished among six cover classes, the scale was at the pixel level, and the exercise provided valuable experience for the KS-GAP project that was to come. In addition, Dr. Kevin Price, Acting Associate Director at KARS, and his colleagues recently had developed multitemporal analysis techniques that yielded very high accuracy to discriminate between agricultural fields and native vegetation, and among agricultural crop types. Because of their previous experience with a statewide remote sensing mapping project and our desire to use KS-GAP to support and develop new techniques for land cover classification, we were delighted to have KBS as partners to develop the land cover classification map.

The Geographic Information System Spatial Analysis Laboratory (GISSAL) at KSU has demonstrated excellence in Geographic Information Systems (GIS) through its development of a statewide soil map. GISSAL is part of the Department of Geography, under the direction of Drs. H. L. (Sy) Seyler and John Harrington. GISSAL is responsible for developing the GIS system and the land stewardship layer. Both KARS and GISSAL are members of the State GIS Policy Board, which oversees maintenance and distribution of digital data in Kansas.

The three production entities involved in KS-GAP are Kansas State University’s Division of Biology, which includes the Coop Unit, the KSU Geography Department, which houses GISSAL, and the University of Kansas, which is the home of KBS. An underestimated benefit of distributing the project among these entities was that each came into KS-GAP with a preestablished set of partnerships. The Coop Unit is linked through its cooperative agreements with the university, USGS-BRD, and the Kansas Department of Wildlife and Parks (KDWP). Our involvement automatically involved those three entities as partners. The GISSAL has close ties to the Natural Resources Conservation Service, the Fish and Wildlife Service, and the State GIS Policy Board. The KBS has close links with NASA, EPA, KDWP, and the State GIS Policy Board. Work that was ongoing with all of these entities automatically became part of KS-GAP.

During the first year of KS-GAP, we recognized the need to hire a coordinator to maintain communication among the producers, as well as to continue contact with existing partners and to develop new partnerships. Dr. Glennis Kaufman, from the Division of Biology, was hired into this position in December 1995. Her first priority was to develop additional partnerships to support KS-GAP. We were helped in these efforts by the fact that the new Secretary of Kansas Wildlife and Parks, Dr. Steve Williams, was very interested in incorporating a computer-based GIS management database such as KS-GAP for resource management within his agency. His office offered to set up a series of meetings with high-level individuals from other potentially interested Kansas agencies. As a result of those meetings, we developed additional partnerships and received financial support from the State Water Office, the GIS Policy Board, and KDWP.

Once KS-GAP was under way and began to produce some products that could be used to show what gap analysis can provide, we found a very powerful tool in helping to develop new projects with potential partners. For example, we recently began discussions with the Kansas Army National Guard to develop a habitat and wildlife monitoring program for one of their training areas. Our discussions with them were proceeding nicely, but they became genuinely excited when we showed poster material from KS-GAP that could enhance their program and invited them to participate in KS-GAP. I expect many future relationships to benefit similarly when we show people how they can meet their needs in unexpected ways by becoming partners in KS-GAP. Many of the organizations we have dealt with have multiple land holdings in Kansas, and although their initial interests are often at a single site, gap analysis offers them an opportunity to anticipate future planning needs at all of their Kansas sites. This provides a strong incentive for agencies to become involved.

There also is a snowball effect. As more organizations become involved in KS-GAP, it becomes easier for additional groups to believe in the usefulness of gap analysis. Also, as more groups begin to use these products for their planning, I expect the GIS data to become a de facto lingua franca among land managing agencies. As Gap Analysis projects move along and more and more groups become involved, it becomes ever easier to establish partnerships.

Several things existed within Kansas from the beginning that predisposed it to partnerships that might not be present in other states. First, there was a preexisting interest in digital data and GIS technology among numerous agencies in Kansas. Second, we had two organizations, KBS and GISSAL, with statewide mapping experience as well as their respective suites of partners. Third, we were fortunate that the Secretary of Wildlife and Parks came into his position with a clear understanding of how a program like Gap Analysis could benefit his agency.

I believe that in order to develop successful partnerships for Gap Analysis we all need to be opportunistic. If you can find agencies that are interested, it is important to get them involved even if they have little or no money to contribute. As more partners refer to Gap Analysis in interagency discussions, you will find more and more people coming to you, but the initial involvement among planners is critical. We all want our products to be useful and, I believe, the best way to realize those wishes is to involve as many partnerships as possible early in project development.

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