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.

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!

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.

Remove Logo Background in a GIS Map: A Step-by-Step Guide

Do you want to add a logo but the background sticks out like a sore thumb on your GIS map?

This may be the help you need.

Download and View PowerpointPresentation


Create a Buffer for a KML in Google Earth

Create a user-defined buffer around point, line, or polygon KMLs has never been easier!

1) Make sure that your Google Earth data is saved as a KML, not KMZ

2) Open this website:


3) Select your buffer type (line, point, or polygon)

4) Select the KML you would like to buffer and choose a buffer distance (in meters). Click the globe with the up arrow to upload your KML file.


5) A new KML will be created and available via a link at the top of the screen.


6) Click the link, save the KML to a location of your choosing and open in Google Earth!

Display BLM PLSS (township, range, section) & USGS Quadrangle data in Google Earth using Earth Survey Tools

Have you ever been looking for a feature in Google Earth & thought, boy this would be so much easier if I could search for it by township, range, section.  Well, now you can!  Just use the Earth Survey Plugin (ESPlugin).

What all does the Earth Survey Plugin have to offer:

  • Section Geocoder: search by point or township,range, section. Link to the BLM General Land Office records webpage which provides "live access to Federal land conveyance records for the Public Land States, including image access to more than five million Federal land title records issued between 1820 and the present. [They] also have images related to survey plats and field notes, dating back to 1810."
  • Address Geocoder: get address information for placemarks and add, customize, and save placemark data.
  • Overlays: drive-time (5, 10, and 15 minute) polygons; BLM townships, principal meridians, and special surveys; USGS quadrangle index and topo maps.
  • Layers: borders (counties, states, etc.), roads, buildings (not available in all cities), trees (not available in all cities), and terrain

Check out all of Earth Survey's tools at:


Geospatial PDF?!? How to Create a Geospatially Aware PDF


Yes, it is true!  You can make a PDF map spatially aware (aka georeferenced).  Geospatial PDF’s allow users to obtain latitude and longitude coordinates, turn data layers on and off, view a selected features attributes, and to query and highlight data.  This tutorial will explain how you create a spatially aware PDF map from ESRI ArcMap.  Just follow these easy steps!

1) Obtain the latest version of Adobe Reader (for free) at: NOTE: This tutorial uses Adobe Reader 10 so if you are using a later or newer version, some of the menus, etc. may be different.

2) Once you have created your map in ArcMap, select Export Map… from the File menu. Choose PDF from the ‘Save as type:” dialog box. If it is not already expanded, expand the Options menu at the bottom of the Export Map dialog box. Select the Advanced tab.  In the Layers and Attributes drop-down menu select ‘Export PDF Layers and Feature Attributes’. Also check the box in front of ‘Export Map Georeference Information’. 


3) Open your exported map in Adobe Reader.  Add the Model Tree to the Navigation Pane running down the left side of the Reader by right-clicking the panel.


4) Start exploring! 




Click on the Layers icon in the Navigation Panel.



You can turn layers/labels on or off by clicking the Eye icon to the left of a group of or individual layers.



Click on the Model Tree icon in the Navigation Panel.


Select a feature from the list to see its attributes (NOTE: These are the same attributes that appear in the attribute tables in ArcMap. If there is a field that is turned off in your ArcMap attribute table, it will also not appear in the PDF). The feature will also be highlighted in the map.


You can also select a feature with your mouse on the map to view its attributes in the Model tree. To do so, you must have the Object Data tool on. To turn this tool on: from the Edit menu, select Analysis, and then Object Data Tool.


Finally, using the Find tool is also a simple way to query for data.  Simply type the name of the feature into the Find tool or Advanced Search search box.  If there is more than one feature that meets the criteria, it will be listed on the screen.  To see the attributes of a specific feature, select it from the search results list.



To turn this tool on: from the Edit menu, select Analysis, and then Geospatial Location Tool. The location of the cursor while be shown in a text box at the bottom of the screen.



· Each data frame will have its own folder in the tree view of the PDF that contains all the layers and the data frame graphics (neatline, background) associated with it.

· Text, picture, or north arrow elements added to a layout become part of a layer called Other. It contains all the graphics and marginalia that are not part of a data frame.

· Each group layer will be represented as a folder in the tree view, and the contents of the group layer will be presented within the group layer.

· Layers that cause rasterization, such as transparent layers, or layers that use a picture fill symbology consolidate all the layers below them into a single layer with the name Image.

· If a layer contains picture marker or picture fill symbology, use the option Vectorize picture markers/fills, found on the Format tab of the Options panel. This prevents rasterization of layers below picture markers and fills.

· Raster layers, such as orthophotos, consolidate all layers below them into a single Image layer. Place raster layers lower in the ArcMap table of contents to avoid this problem.

· Graphic or text elements added to the data frame's default graphics layer from data view become a layer called <Default>. These are displayed above the layers in the data frame. If multiple annotation groups exist (check this on the Drawing > Active Annotation Target menu command on the Draw toolbar) and their contents are in the data view, each individual annotation group becomes a separate layer above the <Default> layer. This is a good way to add focus areas or graphics that emphasize or mask certain features in the data view.

· Backgrounds or drop shadows added to the data frame may become separate graphic elements and may be rendered multiple times as graphics. For example, if a data frame has a colored background, and the layout has a different colored background, the data frame's background may be rendered once to the data frame's Graphics or ArcGIS Layer and again to the layout's Graphics layer or ArcGIS Layer.

· Dynamic labels (not using annotation) in each data frame are rendered separately as part of a layer called Labels.

· Geodatabase annotation is displayed as a separate layer in the PDF. Map annotation is consolidated into the layer for the annotation group in which it belongs.

· When labels are converted to annotation, they are automatically placed in their own named annotation group and render separately from the<Default> group.

· Data frames and other layout elements are rendered in draw order when exported to PDF. Therefore, the topmost layout element in the map is the first element in the resultant PDF table of contents. Use the Bring Forward and Send Backward commands from the Draw toolbar to change the draw order of layout elements.


ArcGIS 10.1 TIP: Setting Projections as 'Favorites' in ArcGIS 10.1 - *NEW* in 10.1

New in 10.1!

Tired of scrolling through all the possible projections when you only use about 3 or 4 of them?  In ArcGIS 10.1 you can now save commonly used projections as a ‘favorite’.

Next time you are specifing a projection for a dataset you can mark the projection as a 'favorite' by simply clicking the 'star icon' in the top right corner of the dialog box.

Next time you need to specify that projection, simply look for it within the 'favorites' section.




ArcMap 10.1 - Edit the Service Layer Credit

In ArcMap 10.1 if you add a basemap to a mapping project, a service layer credit for the basemap (or any dataset streamed as a service from ArcGIS online) automatically shows up in the Layout View. 

The position, font, color, size, etc. of the service layer credit may not be to your liking. To edit the service layer credit in Layout View, go to the Insert menu, select Dynamic Text --> Service Layer Credits.  The credits textbox will become editable/moveable.  You cannot just delete the credits textbox. Due to licensing agreements, it will just show up again. 




FREE College-Level GIS Educational Resources from Penn State

Penn State is now offering Open Education Resources for a number of their departments including Geography that hosts coursework for a number of GIS and remote sensing related classes offered at the university. The bonus is, you are allowed to use and re-use materials you find on this website. 

From the website: 


GIS & Remote Sensing coursework currently up on their website:

Take a look: