While I am a consulting forester, much of my time is spent consulting to consulting foresters. A consultant to consultants, if you will. Our business focus is to provide timber inventory software, but when folks are moving to a more modern inventory platform involving tablets, smartphones, and easier software, the next question is, “What is the best way to make maps, lay out a grid, etc?” We purposely built Forest Metrix NOT to be a GIS, because there are so many terrific solutions readily available, and Forest Metrix captures location data and integrates with all of them. As such, our clients use a wide variety of companion apps to satisfy GPS/GIS objectives. You can see my recent articles in the Forestry Source highlighting two of my favorite GPS apps for field use. But on the desktop side, where you will build maps, lay out stand boundaries, create a sampling grid, and those sorts of tasks, there is only one that I am endorsing: QGIS.

I was raised in the ESRI school of GIS and suffered/stumbled through the complexity, the bugs, and the overkill that ARCMap is best known for. It was painful. And a ton of money. While that level of GIS power is necessary for advanced modelling, it certainly isn’t great for simple tasks, which is most of what foresters need. A few years ago I learned about QGIS, and forced myself to work through a few forestry jobs using it instead of ARC. The transition from ARC took a little while because I didn’t have a good guide- I learned it through trial and error. But once I figured out how simple the workflow actually is, I was convinced that QGIS is THE solution for us. So I decided to create a workshop and simple manual to walk dirt foresters with no GIS experience through the necessary steps of creating a basemap, drawing boundaries and stands, laying out a sampling grid, printing a map for publication, and exporting a georeferenced PDF for navigation in the field on Avenza Maps. This workshop was rolled out at the SAF meeting in Louisville 2019, and participants with zero experience, as well as seasoned ARC users, were pretty much floored by the simplicity of QGIS.

Rather than write an article describing the different elements of the program, it’d be a better use of all of our time for me to simply share the manual. Carve out an hour or two, sit down at your computer, and head to our QGIS resources page. Please send feedback and suggestions to donn@forestmetrix.com.

Enjoy your quarantine,