Back to top

New England Landscape Futures (NELF) Explorer

Printer-friendly version
New England Landscape Futures (NELF) Explorer
Developers: 

Harvard Forest

Year released/updated: 
2019
Summary: 

The New England Landscape Futures (NELF) Explorer is a scenarios-based mapping tool which compares potential future land use outcomes in New England.

Geographic scope: 
New England
Conservation tasks: 
Conservation phases: 
Forest conservation goals
Most suitable for: 
Products: 
Requirements: 

The online mapping tool is readily usable with minimal time, knowledge or technical requirements. Access to, and familiarity with, GIS is required to explore downloaded data.

Additional details 

The New England Landscape Futures (NELF) Explorer is unique in incorporating social, economic and environmental perspectives on potential future land use patterns, and it is the best tool for practitioners interested in exploring these broader and more comprehensive considerations.

NELF Explorer is a scenarios-based interactive land-use mapping tool that allows users to visualize alternative future land uses over time and multiple spatial scales - including all of New England, states, watersheds, and municipalities. Users can also gain an understanding of how the different land-use scenarios, including a business-as-usual scenario called Recent Trends, would affect high priority land for conservation such as wetlands, rare species habitat, and areas of high ecological integrity. The Recent Trends scenario continues rates and patterns of land-use change that occurred between 1990 and 2010 through to the year 2060. The four other NELF scenarios were created with New Englanders from all six states concerned about the future of the land, and are conceptually based on the factors driving changes to the land that stakeholders perceived to be the most impactful and the most uncertain.

NELF Explorer was co-developed with stakeholders as a resource for municipal planning, conservation planning, resource management, and education. It complements many other tools by mapping five alternative futures for the land in New England:

  • Recent Trends: Continuing along the current path where forest cover is declining in all New England states.
  • Connected Communities: Defined by high natural resource planning and innovation and local socio-economic connectedness.
  • Yankee Cosmopolitan: Defined by high natural resource planning and innovation and global socio-economic connectedness.
  • Go It Alone: Defined by low natural resource planning and innovation and local socio-economic connectedness.
  • Growing Global: Defined by low natural resource planning and innovation and global socio-economic connectedness.


The NELF Explorer YouTube Channel includes a video tutorial introduction to NELF Explorer.

Learn more about the terms used on this tool profile from the Glossary.