Victor Natural Resource Inventory
For well over a decade, the Town of Victor has been one of the fastest growing and environmentally diverse communities in Ontario County. To address future development pressures and protect important environmental features, the municipality decided in 2011 to create a comprehensive Natural Resource Inventory (NRI) of the entire Town.
BME was selected to work with the NRI Committee to develop and execute an approach that would result in a Town-wide plan showing the locations of all of its natural resources. One of the specific goals was to identify and map co-occurrences of natural resources – areas where two or more valuable and/or sensitive environmental resources are present.
The resources inventoried included wetlands, woods, steep slopes, streams and floodplains. The Town recognized that protecting these important natural resources would provide multiple benefits to the community, and that the resulting inventory map would help it assess future development and balance between land use and protection of the natural environment. It would also identify environmentally sensitive areas that the Town may wish to maintain and/or consider for possible acquisition.
The NRI would also expedite the evaluation and initial review process for developers considering areas of the Town for potential projects.
A Co-occurrence Approach
Project Engineer / Wetland Services
The process for creating the NRI for the Town of Victor required a bit of early planning, then a good deal of physical activity – actually conducting site walks for the resource analysis and reconnaissance.
We began by taking existing aerial photography, geographical information system (GIS) data, federal and state wetlands maps, and created a coincidental overlay plot of all natural features. The primary purpose was to identify the locations of co-occurrences.
Next, we created field data assessment forms that we’d use to describe the conditions in the co-occurrence areas, and we developed a simple ranking system so these areas could be analyzed, compared and rated.
The in-person, on-site inspection came next in all areas where access was allowed. We site-walked the areas, catalogued photographs and completed the assessment data forms for all sites.
The NRI is a tool that the Town of Victor expects to be of tremendous value in the future.
“We needed to develop consistent criteria for evaluating more than 20,000 acres.”
The most immediate challenge for this project was the sheer magnitude of the area to be inventoried and mapped, because the Town of Victor encompasses some 36 square miles, or well over 20,000 acres.
Our recommendation to the Committee was to consider only parcels that were ten acres or larger in size, and then to establish appropriate and consistent evaluation criteria for the entire study area. These criteria would mean that a developer, a resident, or anyone else could also apply them to evaluate parcels less than ten acres in size, if desired.
In many ways, we were starting from scratch. Some towns have Environmental Protection Overlay Districts (EPODs) drawn from readily available mapping, and some have Limited Development Districts (LDDs). We believe that no other municipality had undertaken such a comprehensive approach.
We realized the need to identify wetlands and floodplains, since they would likely have state or federal regulations regarding development. It was also important to identify and map woodlands and steep slopes, even though there are not typically federal or state regulations to protect them. In a co-occurrence of wetlands and woodlands, for example, a developer might heed certain regulations for a project regarding the wetlands, but in theory, would have the right to clear-cut mature, 100-year-old specimen trees in order to create access to the site.
In the end, we concentrated on wetlands, woodlands, floodplains, streams and steep slopes, and specifically areas where one or more were present together.
– Kate Crowley
Vice Chair, Conservation Board