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State of New Jersey Department of Environmental Protection
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news releases

September 26, 2019

Contact: Lawrence Hajna (609) 984-1795
Caryn Shinske (609) 292-2994


(19/P079) TRENTON – The Department of Environmental Protection has released an important update to its series of Land Use/Land Cover maps, an essential resource in assisting the DEP and numerous other government agencies and organizations in making decisions that affect all residents, Commissioner Catherine R. McCabe announced today.

GIS Detailed Update“This update is the most extensive the DEP has ever put out and is one of the most thorough in the nation, mapping 86 different land use and land cover types,” Commissioner McCabe said. “Detailed GIS mapping allows the DEP and others to assess, monitor, and proactively respond to landscape changes to better manage and protect resources and the environment. This update is especially critical as we face important decisions about how to make New Jersey more resilient to the effects of sea-level rise and global warming.”

Information on land use cover changes is an important priority of the DEP in helping protect ecosystems and making timely and sound permit decisions.

With this updated dataset, government agencies, planners, local officials, nongovernmental agencies and others can easily access comprehensive and detailed maps of forests, wetlands, beaches, open space, urban areas and bodies of water as well as where development is occurring by type residential, commercial, industrial and transportation.

To access the land use/land cover data, visit

In addition to sea-level rise studies, the data are also integral to land use capability mapping, endangered species habitat mapping, emergency response planning, wetlands mapping, forest resource assessment and a host of other applications.

The data set was developed using Geographic Information System (GIS) technology and is a major addition to the wide range of environmental datasets the DEP has developed using this technology.

The Land Use/Land Cover maps are based on 2015 aerial survey data. This is the sixth statewide Land Use/Land Cover GIS mapping the DEP has completed, adding to those done for 1986, 1995, 2002, 2007 and 2012.

Land Use/Land Cover mapping is a very precise process that requires detailed aerial ortho-imagery, which is high-resolution photography of the Earth’s surface. The imagery is analyzed by photo interpreters using GIS software, and each portion of the state is assigned to a Land Use/Land Cover category, resulting in a complete inventory of the physical environment of New Jersey as captured in the 2015 imagery.

Besides providing a snapshot of the existing landscape, the maps generated from the 2015 imagery can also be compared with Land Use/Land Cover maps generated from imagery taken in previous years. These images are overlapped with images from past aerial imaging to develop a map that can show land use patterns and trends over time.

The conversion of land from a natural to a developed or disturbed condition is well documented as causing significant, direct, as well as secondary and cumulative, environmental impacts. Environmental impacts associated with land conversion and alteration include habitat loss, fragmentation, and the introduction of invasive species. Such impacts have led to a loss of biodiversity and reduction of habitat quality within several of the state’s ecosystems. Indirect negative impacts of land use change also include traffic congestion and air pollution.

The GIS mapping data sets provide a useful and highly visual tool for assessing where changing land use conditions may increase pressures on ecological resources, providing time to take actions to enhance protection of those resources.

Areas that have undergone no change show the same classifications. Areas that have changed will show the previous Land Use Land Cover classification as well as the new classification. Edits to the boundaries of each changed area are also made as needed. Change analysis between the two years being compared can then be done from the one updated layer.

In addition to Land Use/Land Cover, the Bureau of Geographic Information Systems supports a range of data and services for environmental management decisions. These include hydrography and aerial imagery; data integration with NJEMS and other core DEP databases; desktop and web-based tools and software training and also integration with related technologies such as Global Positioning Systems.




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Last Updated: September 26, 2019