MSU receives $104K grant from USACE to study web-based GIS tool for natural resources management

The MSU Land Policy Institute recently received funding from the U.S. Army Corps of Engineers to study a web-based GIS system in support of USACE’s Visitation Estimation and Reporting System and the Natural Resources Risk Assessment Tool.

Children sitting in kayaks on a lake.
Children sitting in kayaks on a lake at a USACE recreation area. Photo by the USACE.

The Michigan State University (MSU) Center for Economic and Spatial Analysis for Planning and Management in the Land Policy Institute recently received funding in the amount of $104K from the U.S. Army Corps of Engineers (USACE) to study a web-based GIS system in support of USACE’s Visitation Estimation and Reporting System and the Natural Resources Risk Assessment Tool.

The MSU team, led by professor emeritus Edward Mahoney, has been collaborating with USACE to research in GIS mapping and spatial analysis, decision models, survey design and analysis, and economic impact assessment since 2010.

The purpose of this grant is to provide the USACE with research and technical capabilities (e.g., GIS, programming, quantitative modeling and statistics) to assist in addressing current and emerging priorities for the Natural Resources Program (Recreation and Environmental Stewardship).

Yue Cui, LPI assistant professor, now leads the project and guides the MSU team, which includes Theresa Herbowicz, LPI research analyst, along with graduate and undergraduate students. The team will perform the following tasks:

  1. Build a spatial database for USACE projects with a recreation business line. This includes developing and maintaining a web-based GIS to facilitate USACE to collect and verify spatial information, e.g., water boundary, fee boundary, of park boundaries, meter location and facilities; help in compiling and conducting quality control for the collected spatial information; and help in publishing the dataset to related parties.

  2. Assist on the Visitation Estimation and Reporting System tem (VERS) modernization procedure, including development of sampling frameworks, calibration of loading factors and conducting and analysis of data collected on spending surveys.

  3. Use USACE recreation visits and transaction data to develop models to understand recreation usage from demand and supply aspects, and link the recreation usage with economic development, environment impacts and social impacts.

  4. Further develop and enhance the Web-based Natural Resources Risk Assessment Geospatial Tool. This will support USACE in the design of a relational geodatabase for tabular, raster, and vector datasets, and to incorporate new analytical methods for measuring development on lands adjacent to Environmental Stewardship Projects.

As the largest provider of water-based outdoor recreation in the nation, the USACE has more than 5,000 recreation areas and directly manages over half of them as part of 400+ water resource development projects. The recreation-related natural resources program has a footprint of more than 12 million acres of land and water.

One of USACE's mission is to manage natural resources, and provide the highest quality public outdoor recreation opportunities, while also preserving these natural resources for future generations.

“This research will provide a solid approach for ongoing collection, update and analysis of recreation-related data, including facilities and resources, visitor counts, usages, motives and behaviors, conflicts, etc., in a scientific and systematic fashion,” said Assistant Professor Yue Cui.

The tools developed by this project will also allow the U.S. Army Corps to examine both the current and expected relationships between the supply of and visitors' demand for recreation areas.

For more information about this project, please contact Yue Cui at  

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