This past winter and spring, FLT enlisted the aid of Westfield State senior Jon Gardner to help answer a critical question: what land in FLT’s service
area is at the greatest risk of development? Jon, whose background includes an impressive computer modeling skillset, used a Geographic Information
System (GIS) program to combine a range of factors including land use, topography, and proximity to highly-traveled roads to predict risk of residential
and industrial build-out at a parcel scale.
FLT plans to use Jon’s analysis of build-out risk to complement its existing GIS models of conservation values, which identify areas that are important
to protect for the benefit of the working landscape. In combination, the two tools will be useful in identifying regions of FLT’s service area that
are both ecologically or economically significant, and at high risk of undesirable development.
In addition to its useful final product, Jon’s internship with FLT was a rich experience for both parties. When Jon’s advisor, Dr. John McDonald of Westfield’s
Environmental Science Department, approached the land trust to learn whether there was an interest in hosting one of his top students for an internship,
FLT saw a great chance to look at its service area with a new toolset. “At the time Jon began his internship, FLT lacked a GIS specialist with anything
approaching his capability” says land steward Josh Morse. “We were very excited to bring Jon’s skillset to bear to look at some of the questions we
have about the forces at work in our service area from a new perspective. The experience was a fruitful one for Jon, as well, and Jon notes that “Working
with the Franklin Land Trust to develop this model forced me to think creatively with the tools I was comfortable with and learn about new tools in
depth. The final product has both utility for the Franklin Land Trust and basic directions for others to recreate the model and apply it elsewhere.
I am proud of my work and honored that Franklin Land Trust has shown excitement about this model.”