#MapMonday: M-CORES

In this episode Mae chats to Kent, our senior representative in Florida, about the Multi-Use Corridors of Regional Economic Significance (M-CORES) bill. This bill requires Florida Department of Transportation (FDOT) to plan, develop and fund three new toll highways and utility corridors in the western half of the Florida peninsula from the Everglades to the Florida-Georgia line - crucial habitat for species like the endangered Florida habitat and Florida black bear. You can check out the map here.

Click to view video transcript Mae: Hey there everybody and thanks for tuning in for another Map Monday!

Today we’re featuring an important web mapping application that helps show the biological, natural and cultural features in Florida that could be under threat by the construction of three toll roads and utility corridors in the western portion of the Florida peninsula.

These toll roads and utility corridors are known as Multi-Use Corridors of Regional Economic Significance, or M-CORES for short. In 2019, Florida’s governor signed a bill requiring the Department of Transportation to construct these M-CORES through important habitat for endangered Florida panther, bears, and more.

As you may recall from our Florida panther Map Monday, this endangered species is currently found in southern Florida, which is just a fraction of its historic range.

In order for the Florida panther to begin to expand its range and reclaim the areas it once inhabited, it will need to travel north through the very areas these M-CORES threaten to develop.

Since Defenders opened an office in Florida in 1994, we have been a leader in state transportation policy and project work to ensure that wildlife conservation and habitat protection are an integral part of transportation planning.

This includes advocating for the inclusion of wildlife crossings in road designs as well as modifications to existing roads where necessary. This is done with the goal of allowing safe passage for wildlife across roadways to maintain habitat connectivity and facilitate species’ range expansion.

Our team in Florida has begun to use GIS and interactive web maps to address this threat and ensure that these projected highways and associated planning processes integrate conservation priorities and consider land use impacts.

Kent Wimmer, our Senior Northwest Florida Representative, has put together an incredible online web mapping tool to interact with and understand the ways in which this M-CORE project is likely to impact the landscape.

Let’s take it over to Kent to learn more!

Kent: Thank you Mae.

These three toll roads and utility corridors would extend 330 miles through the Florida peninsula from the Florida/Georgia line to the Everglades. In response, I developed an online web map to show the public the significant biological, natural and cultural features potentially threatened by these corridors.

Our maps include over five dozen data sets or layers, which may be viewed and organized based on what the user wishes to see.

To use the map zoom in or out to the specific area you want to see by clicking on the plus or minus signs. Then click on the legend square on the right hand side of the upper green bar to drop down the legend to see what layers are already turned on. Then click on the box to the right - the drop down - and see all the available layers.

These range from transportation and energy infrastructure, wildlife habitat, public and private conservation lands, areas targeted for conservation, rivers and springs, wetlands, and agricultural and forested areas.

You can turn these individual layers off and on by clicking within the box to the left of the layer’s name. You can also change the order in which these layers are drawn by clicking on the three dots to the right of the layer name and then selecting move up or move down.

You can print your map or share it electronically by clicking the print and share buttons in the upper left hand corner.

We are using our maps and data to show the conservation lands and habitat that these corridors should avoid. Defenders continues to add data sets and refine our online map as a part of our advocacy for the maximum protection of wildlife habitat and conservation lands.

Following the development of our online map, the Florida Department of Transportation has since developed their own online maps, which include many of the data sets we’ve recommended.

My Defenders colleague, Elizabeth Fleming, and I serve as environmental representatives on three task forces providing guidance to the Florida Department of Transportation on these corridors.

This project, named M-CORES, for Multiple Use Corridors of Regional Economic Significance, could impact over 50,000 acres and many times that area from the development sprawling into some of the most rural parts of the state.

Defenders is using our seat at the table and our maps to advocate that these corridors should avoid, minimize, and mitigate impacts on conservation lands and wildlife in their habitat.

Back to you Mae!

Mae: Thanks Kent for all your hard work and advocacy through maps down there in Florida!

You can follow Kent and the rest of our southeast teams work on their Facebook page. Also remember to check out the M-CORES web mapping application at the link below. And finally, please consider joining us in telling the Florida Department of Transportation that these toll roads and utility corridors must not impact our conservation lands and habitats by visiting floridamcores.com.

Thanks for watching, and happy mapping!

Mae Lacey
Previous Conservation GIS Analyst

As the previous Conservation GIS Analyst in the Center for Conservation Innovation, Mae provided support and leadership for geospatial product development across Defenders.