GIS - MORE, Better, Faster

We have implemented a system of distributed, synchronized GIS databases across the state.  This should substantially increase the speed with which you can access and navigate GIS data in ArcMap.

There is now a copy of our GIS layers stored on the U:\ drive in each regional office as well as for Nampa Research and Eagle Lab.  The database, U:\GIS_IDFG.gdb will be synchronized nightly with the main database at HQ.

We have also added a directory of Layerfiles to the U:\ drive.  The directory is located at U:\IDFG_Layers.   The Layerfiles reference the data in U:\GIS_IDFG.gdb and provide predefined colors, symbols, and labeling.  You may add them to your map document through ArcCatalog, the AddData button, or the LayerFetcher.

Some of the Layerfiles, such as the aerial imagery and topo base maps, point to data that is delivered via the internet.  The speed at which these layers draw will depend on the speed of the internet connection at your regional office.  You can navigate around your map more quickly if you keep these layers turned off until you need them. The internet base map layers are located in the WebBaseMaps subdirectory of IDFG_Layers.

Other subdirectories include Hunt, Fish, Conservation, and Reference.  Go in to ArcCatalog and take a look around in U:\IDFG_Layers and U:\GIS_IDFG.gdb to see what’s available.

This should be a significant improvement for IDFG GIS users but there will be some pain.  Many of the data connections in your existing Map Documents may be broken.  This is actually a good thing.  It will encourage you to connect to the newer, better, faster data.

If you find a broken connection in your map:

Right-click the layer in your map project.

Select Data --> Repair Data Source --> Navigate to U:\ GIS_IDFG.gdb and select the equivalent layer - OR - use the LayerFetcher to add the new layer and remove the old one.

See this post on repairing broken data sources for a visual step-by-step and more options for fixing broken connections.

Thank you for your patience during this transition.

Repairing Broken Data Sources cont. & connecting to U:\GIS_IDFG.gdb

The IFWIS shop has migrated all of our most useful GIS data to new geodatabases that will live in each region.  What does that mean?  That means that your GIS projects should be much faster to build and work with because regional users will be requesting data from a local geodatabase instead of a geodatabase sitting at headquarters.  The layers in the LayerFetcher tool are now all referencing the new geodatabase.  Within each region, the geodatabase is located at U:\GIS_IDFG.gdb.  Instead of referencing K:\IFWIS\SDE_Layers\SDE_Vector.sde to repair broken data sources, you should reference U:\GIS_IDFG.gdb.

To elaborate a little on the original 'Repairing Broken Data Sources' blog post, you can also repair multiple broken data sources in ArcMap.

In ArcMap, right-click a layer with a broken data source --> Data --> Repair Data Source...

Navigate to the U drive:

If you don't see the U drive in your Data Source directory, you need to make a new connection.  In the Data Source dialog, click the 'Connect to Folder' icon and navigate to the U drive.  In the GIS_IDFG.gdb, navigate to the corresponding feature class.  For instance, if you are repairing the 'Major Rivers' layer, navigate to 'Hydro_Stream_Idaho'. How did I know which feature class to navigate to?  You can figure out the name of the feature class you are looking for by looking at the 'Source' tab of the 'Layer Properties' window of the broken layer.

‘Repair Data Source’ may repair multiple layers if the matching feature class in the new geodatabase has the same name.  For instance, the wilderness areas layer will not be repaired because the original feature class used to created the layer was called ‘wilderness’ and the new feature class is called ‘wilderness areas’.

After a data source has been repaired you may receive drawing errors such as:

What do all those errors mean?!?  While we were creating the new GIS_IDFG.gdb for the regions, we thought it was also a good opportunity to update some of the data.  Consequently, some of the field names have changed.  So, after the data source is repaired old definition queries and label expression may cause the layer or its labels to not draw.  You have two options, you can edit the definition queries and label expressions using the proper field names OR you can remove the layer entirely and re-add the layer using the LayerFetcher.  

Here are a couple of examples of errors cause by legacy queries and expressions and how to fix them. 

The 'Hydrography (Idaho Only), Major Rivers' layer has a definition query of 

In the new 'Hydro_Stream_Idaho' feature class the length field is called Shape_Length and the LLID fields is a text field instead of a numeric field.  The definition query must now read Shape_Length > 50000 OR LLID = '1149345461224'.

The 'Geographic Names (w/o Hydro)' layer has a definition query of TYPE <> 'lake' AND TYPE <> 'reservoir' AND TYPE <> 'stream'.  In the new GNIS feature class, the type field is now called 'class'.

The label expression for the geographic names layer is [NAME].  In the new GNIS feature class, the name field is called 'Feature_Na'.






GIS training, free courses, blogs and other resources

You have brains in your head.  You have feet in your shoes.  You can steer yourself any direction you choose!  (Dr. Seuss, of course)  Wondering where to start with GIS?  Maybe you're looking for a few tips and tricks from other users -- or maybe a course to brush up on your understanding of spatial data or widen your professional horizons.  In a world where GIS is everwhere, the choices can seem overwhelming.  Here's a sampler to help you navigate.

Entry level to intermediate courses:

Of interest to any level GIS user:



Happy Mapping from the GIS Team in IFWIS!

Hydrologic Unit Code (HUC) Hierarchy Table

Mystified by the often-confusing terminology associated with water drainage naming and numbering?

This table relates well to the official NHD/USGS system (source: Wikipedia 2015Feb05).

The GIS layer Hydrologic Units includes Level 3 (3rd-code/6-digit) through Level 6 (6th-code/12-digit) polygons.


These images should help clarify, beginning at the HUC3 level,

Lower Snake River Basin selected:

Lower Snake River Basin description


Zoom in to HUC4 with Imnaha River (Oregon) Subbasin selected:


Zoom in to HUC5 with Upper Imnaha River Watershed selected:


Zoom to HUC6, South Fork Imnaha River Subwatershed selected:


Improved Huntplanner Map Center

Since we first launched the Huntplanner in 2003 we've received a lot of feedback from hunters and other outdoor enthusiasts.  Along with your bouquets and brickbats, we receive many great ideas to improve the Huntplanner Map Center.

In this release, our third complete re-write of the Huntplanner Map Center, we've focused on adding the most requested features from your letters:

  1. Improved display and interactivity on mobile phones and tablets
  2. Transparency sliders to toggle the opacity of layers
  3. Create PDF maps for printing and sharing
  4. Tools to draw on the map and add notes
  5. Placename and coordinate search
  6. Measuring tools for distance and area
  7. More basemap options
  8. Controlled Hunt overlays by Species
  9. Areas closed to Hunting
  10. Geolocation to show your location on the map

We've added all these new features while retaining the existing functionality.

We recognize this is a new product.  There will be bugs to work out and adjustments.  While we're smoothing the rough edges, the classic Map Center will remain available.  We've already received some great feedback from hunters that has helped us improve the new Map Center.  If you have ideas or suggestions to make the Map Center better, please let us know!


Spawning Ground Survey (SGS) Quality Assurance and Quality Control Presentation

This is the power point presentation of the Top Ten list of errors in the Spawning Ground Survey (SGS) database.  They were compiled and presented by Kristin Wright, Chris Harrington, and Evan Brown at the 2014 SGS Coordination meeting.

Windfarm: USGS Releases Interactive Map of U.S. Wind Turbines

From the USGS website: "To remedy the lack of information, the USGS created this publicly available national dataset and interactive mapping application of wind turbines.  This dataset is built with publicly available data, as well as searching for and identifying individual wind turbines using satellite imagery. The locations of all wind turbines, including the publicly available datasets, were visually verified with high-resolution remote imagery to within plus or minus 10 meters."

Screenshot of southern Idaho in the windFarm application:

For more information:

windFarm Application:

Updated Idaho Topo Maps Available & Using the TerraGo Toolbar

The Idaho 2013/2014 series of US Topo maps have been completed. The latest series has improvements over the 2011 series including Forest service roads and trails, structures, improved NHD, PLSS, and more. The image base for the new maps is the 2013 NAIP. GeoPDF maps can be downloaded FREE of charge at the USGS Map Store.

A GeoPDF is "an extension to Adobe's PDF 1.3 and higher versions enabling GIS functionality within standard PDF files." For more information about GeoPDF's click here. In these GeoPDFs you can toggle the layers (geographic names, boundaries, transportation, hydrography, contours, imagery) on/off.  You can also use the Search tool to look for specific named places on the map,

You can also download the FREE TerraGO Toolbar to access geospatial maps and imagery, measure distance and area, display/find coordinates, add "GeoStamps", and capture GPS information. For more information about TerraGo and to watch Training Videos, visit their website

Here is an example of what a GeoPDF with the TerraGo toolbar add-in.  You can toggle map layers on/off in the left-hand "Layers" table of contents.  The TerraGo toolbars can be enabled in through the main menu or by going to View > Extended > TerraGo GeoPDF or TerraGo GeoMark.

What is an observation?

We define any identification of a taxa element at a point and place, be it a trailcam picture, animal mark recapture, waterbird survey or an incidental sighting as an observation.  Some are very complex including hundreds of attributes.  For some it may be as simple as an historical observation of Bison in Cassia County in the 1880s.

In order to be able to query all of what we collect regardless of survey and protocol differences it is necessary to standardize every sighting into a core set of fields.  We call this our Core Observation Entity.

Observation Core Entity

  • Species
    • Species Confidence (0-100% with labels for certain thresholds)
    • Count (Integer)
    • Count Type (absolute, estimate, minimum)
    • Sex (unknown, male, female, both, not applicable)
    • Life State (unknown, alive, dead)
    • Life Stage (immature, yearling, nymph, flowering, dormant….)
  • Date Time (from – to range with timezone)
    • Date Confidence (In seconds with labels for certain thresholds)
  • Location (geojson… lat/lng also accepted)
    • Location Confidence (In meters with labels for certain thresholds)
    • Location Resource (text, how location was derived… GPS, Google Maps Click, Lat/Lng Entered)  {may be dropped}
  • Observer(s)
    • Full Name (some part of First or Last name required)
    • Occupation
    • Employer
    • Phone
    • Email
    • Physical address
    • Background (Long Text)
    • Observer Confidence (0-100% with labels for certain thresholds)
  • Observation Methods (seen, heard, scat)
  • Reporter (username)
  • Report Date (timestamp)
The following are also auto-calcuated for all observations:
  • County
  • GMU
  • Region
  • HUC6 (proposed)
  • 5km Grid (proposed)
  • 6km Hex (proposed)

Common Optional Components

  • Site
  • Survey
  • Project
  • Field Methods (under construction)


You can see these core observations and their default settings and user interfaces on our bulk import form (login required) or the basic observations form

New Observations and Survey Upload Form

Do you collect lots of data?  Not about to sit down and upload your observations one by one?

We don't blame you!

Since our start, we've always encouraged our partners and collaborators to share their data with us, but there hasn't been an easy way to do so online. 

We've just changed that with our new Observations Import form.  While not fully automated, this form will allow you to attach your spreadsheets, databases or shapefiles while configuring some sensible defaults.  We'll take it from there and you'll be able to track the status of your import, follow a log of processing and answer questions about observation details we might come across.

You'll find the form here:

*Note:  If you have incidental and/or one-time survey data yet to be compiled into a spreadsheet, you also have the option of populating our MS Excel template which includes our core database values.  Click here to download a spreadsheet with built-in drop-down lists.  Click here to download a copy of the same spreadsheet, but without the built-in drop-down lists.