Oregon Online

Have you ever tried to imagine how the Willamette Valley will look when your grandchildren are grown?

Now you can go beyond imagining.

Three visions of the valley’s future are laid out in the Willamette Basin Explorer, which is part of a new family of Web sites called Oregon Explorer. Curious about the quality-of-life consequences of staying the current policy course? What if we loosened urban growth boundaries and relaxed zoning regulations? Instead, what if we made conservation our priority?

Critical questions like these can be explored quickly and easily at OSU’s digital library of natural resources, launched in June. Through Oregon Explorer, users can access the rich base of information that exists for Oregon’s diverse basins and ecoregions. The Willamette Basin Explorer, for instance, offers a graphic, full-color preview of three alternate scenarios created with Geographic Information Systems (GIS) maps. The impact of today’s land-use decisions on urban, rural, agricultural, forestry and natural lands shifts dramatically from one scenario to the next. Each map shows how today’s policies might play out on 2050’s landscape.

“Oregon Explorer empowers users to share information about natural resource issues and solutions,” says Janine Salwasser, Oregon Explorer co-manager at OSU Libraries. “This state-of-the-art digital library gives citizens, policy-makers, students and educators a place to come together for shared understanding and problem solving.”

Users can also venture to the North Coast and the Umpqua Basin portals. As Oregon Explorer unfolds it will encompass all of the state’s 15 major water basins. Another portal called the Wildfire Risk Explorer takes you to a rich trove of GIS data and local planning tools for fire prevention. Future portals will focus on land use, wildlife, wetlands, sustainable agriculture and climate change.

The site is a toolbox, too. Interactive maps let you zoom in and out as you explore a watershed or search for restoration opportunities. GIS tools let you create custom maps for use in presentations and reports by layering multiple data sets. A statistics reporting tool helps you generate charts, graphs and tables.

“Information about the status and trends of natural resources is invaluable to decision-makers but difficult to access because it is collected in diverse formats and housed in disparate locations,” notes Salwasser. “Oregon Explorer changes all that.”

Faces and voices bring life to this multimedia, place-based digital library, which was developed jointly by the OSU Libraries and OUS Institute for Natural Resources in partnership with the University of Oregon, Oregon Watershed Enhancement Board, Oregon Department of Administrative Services and Edge Design. Photos, videos, satellite images, digital documents and engaging articles are also part of the mix.

“We want Oregon Explorer to be the ‘go-to’ place for natural resources information,” says program co-manager Jimmy Kagan of the Institute for Natural Resources.