The Nature Conservancy (TNC) in Florida announces the launch of a publicly accessible and free online tool to support smart planning and equitable conservation in Orange County, Florida—one of the fastest growing counties in the country. The EcoResource of Orange County (EcoResource) tool, developed by TNC, is a new web-based mapping platform that streamlines and centralizes comprehensive data to inform and address environmental, economic, health and other socioeconomic community challenges. The EcoResource can facilitate planning to improve community resiliency and urban biodiversity.
The EcoResource visualizes data using ArcGIS mapping, including layers for flooding risks, freshwater quality, urban tree coverage, access to parks and green spaces, conservation areas and energy burden. By mapping local challenges, government and elected officials, planners, community advocates, landowners and others can identify areas and communities most impacted by environmental, economic, health and other community challenges and best prioritize projects and investments in nature, such as trees, wetlands and open spaces.
During tool development, TNC collaborated with a diverse group of community stakeholders, prioritizing low-income communities and communities of color. Stakeholders were engaged through community events, meetings and multi-language surveys, to address the most important local conservation needs, make recommendations and identify strategic areas for local conservation. Using the feedback gained through this outreach effort, community voices and perspectives are amplified throughout the tool.
“By engaging community residents first, we gained valuable knowledge and insight about the challenges, needs and priorities of local communities,” said Christianah Oyenuga, Ph.D., TNC Florida Sustainable Cities Manager.
The EcoResource of Orange County was launched through the generous support of the ADS Foundation and Duke Energy Foundation, and community partners who contributed insight, feedback and expertise: Alianza Center, CLEO Institute, Coalition of 100 Black Women, Florida Native Plant Society, Tarflower Chapter, IDEAS For Us, Infinite Zion Farms, League of Women Voters of Orange County, NAACP Orange County, Orange County Audubon Society, Pine Hills Community Council, Sierra Club Central Florida, Solar United Neighbors and St. Johns Riverkeeper.
Orange County is one of the fastest growing areas in Florida, facing the need to balance rapid growth while supporting the nature that supplies drinking water and clean air, provides recreation areas for well-being and protects iconic wildlife.
“This tool serves as a comprehensive guide to understanding our environment in Orange County. At a quick glance, we can know where the nearest rivers or parks are, and more importantly, it sheds light on pressing issues our communities are facing such as extreme heat and insufficient canopy cover. The EcoResource will help us quickly identify the environmental issues and opportunities our communities face, aiding us in developing effective strategies to better serve our communities towards a more sustainable and resilient future,” said Frank Weaver, State Manager of Community Resilience and Sustainability at Alianza Center.
The Nature Conservancy is a global conservation organization dedicated to conserving the lands and waters on which all life depends. Guided by science, we create innovative, on-the-ground solutions to our world’s toughest challenges so that nature and people can thrive together. We are tackling climate change, conserving lands, waters and oceans at an unprecedented scale, providing food and water sustainably and helping make cities more sustainable. Working in more than 70 countries and territories, we use a collaborative approach that engages local communities, governments, the private sector, and other partners. To learn more, visit nature.org or follow @nature_press on Twitter.