Frequently Asked Questions:

1. Why was this site created?

Recent trends in land use, such as increased settlement of rural areas, forest land conversion, and increased development have emerged as key issues affecting natural resource management along Lake Superior's North Shore. As units of government from local townships to the federal governments of the US and Canada plan for the future, the need for data and tools for sound decision-making has become critical.

Local decision makers, however, often lack the most fundamental data layers required for sound water and land management decisions. Among these are comprehensive information on local watersheds and hydrography, land use/land cover, transportation and zoning information, demography, and even basic characteristics of the Lake Superior shoreline.

In addition to the lack of spatial data, smaller units of government and agencies often embark on land use and water management planning exercises with few tools at their disposal. While computer simulation models, draft ordinances, and decision support tools are receiving wider use in planning, these tools are often out of reach of local governments who lack equipment and expertise required for their use.

The intent of this site is to provide these data and tools to these important local decision makers.

2. Who funded this project?

This project was funded through the MN Department Natural Resources Lake Superior Coastal Program, which in turn is funded through the National Atmospheric and Oceanic Administration.

3. What kinds of data are available?

This web site delivers Geographic Information, which can be accessed in the form on on-line maps or downloadable data.

The On-line data are delivered using ESRI's Internet Map Server, a program that allows maps to be created interactively. Users can zoom in and out, and obtain information on individual map elements. Instructions for using the IMS can be found at:

The downloadable data is provided as ArcView Shapefiles. ArcView is a widely-used commercial GIS program. Information on obtaining ArcView can be found at

4. What kind of decision support tools are available?

The site contains numerous links to planning materials, including the NEMO program and Minnesota's EPIC tools. It also includes a PDF-based Land Planning Primer created by the University of Minnesota's Center for Rural Design. Through the community-based planning process described in this Primer, citizens are provided a methodology for approaching the complex task of envisioning future scenarios for rural communities. Citizen volunteers living in the Lake Superior Basin are the intended primary audience for this publication; however, policy makers should also find it useful in examining the range of strategies for building or rebuilding sustainable communities in this and other rural regions of the Upper Midwest.

5. Who can I contact for more information?

Specific questions should be directed to George Host at