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Developing a GIS-based Decision Support System for Land Use Planning Activities
Project Number
FEW 49311

The goal is to assist the Bureau of Land Management (BLM) in the development of a geographic information system (GIS)-based decision support system for land-use planning activities that will expedite the processing of land use authorization requests, such as an Application for Permit to Drill (APD).


Argonne National Laboratory (ANL), Argonne, IL 
Bureau of Land Management, National Science & Technology Center, Washington, D.C.


A number of years ago, BLM’s Pinedale, WY, field office, with assistance from the University of Wyoming, developed and implemented a set of GIS-based tools to enhance the review of land-use applications. The system, known as the Computer-Assisted Resource Analysis Tool (CARAT), provides a network-based means for field office staff to 1) display current GIS information, 2) identify restrictions that should be included with the application response, and 3) aggregate multiple reviewers’ results and conclusions within one formal application response package that can be stored electronically. CARAT provides these capabilities within a preprogrammed user environment that allows users with limited GIS capabilities to perform their review responsibilities. CARAT is currently in use at two BLM field offices, one in Wyoming and one in Colorado.

Concurrently, BLM was developing ePlanning Version 1, a web-based platform that supported the development of the National Environmental Policy Act (NEPA) documentation required for planning purposes. Version 1 was piloted by BLM. Based on the pilot experience, BLM developed users’ requirements for a more extensive and robust version of ePlanning, called Version 2. Version 2 has now been deployed and BLM expects that in the future all NEPA planning activities will be undertaken using the ePlanning toolkit.

The project work will take the lessons learned from the implementation of CARAT, along with input from the BLM user community, and use them to guide the development of a next-generation decision support tool that expands upon CARAT’s capabilities and integrates with BLM’s ePlanning Version 2.


The successful development of a GIS-based decision support system will result in the following benefits: 1) shortened and improved review processes for energy-related (and other) land-use applications, 2) consolidated documentation of the review process and bases for decisions, and 3) implementation of an application processing approach through integration with BLM's electronic planning system (ePlanning).

Accomplishments (most recent listed first)

The project started in fall 2005. The project called for implementing GIS-based tools for land-use application reviews to assist BLM in improved processing of oil and gas permits. Originally it was intended that the DST would be an upgrade of an existing stand alone tool (CARAT). Since then BLM has been investing heavily in development of an automated land use planning tool (ePlanning) that will be used in future land use planning efforts. After the DST project commenced BLM made the decision the DST needed to be part of and consistent with ePlanning. Extended conversations between Argonne and BLM ensued, complicated by the very heavy workload BLM staff were under in getting ePlanning operational.

The work will include identification and documentation of user needs and system design criteria, as well as development of a "proof of concept" version of the new system. Argonne has provided a draft functionality crosswalk between the Decision Support Tool (DST) user requirements, ePlanning version 2, and CARAT. This was followed up with a conceptual level design outline for discussion. Discussions with the project team over the documents appear to be reasonable but will need additional review in concert with BLM’s ePlanning contractor Northrop Grumman.

The first version of the DST was delivered to BLM on September 16, 2008 for testing. A .Net software development framework was used to maximize the capabilities that could be included in the tool. The tool was unacceptable to BLM because it required a formal installation process that included registering .dll components with the server operating system.

From mid-September until October 30 Argonne worked to identify a suitable programming substitute for the tool which would be acceptable to BLM. Visual-Basic (VB) implemented within ArcGIS was eventually selected based conversations with BLM and its minimal installation requirements.

The functionality of the first tool was re-programmed into VB, was tested by Argonne, and was sent to BLM for testing January 21, 2009.

The final version of the two tools comprising the DST was hand-delivered to BLM on July 7, 2009. Two CDs containing two GIS tools; the User Guide, Requirements, Test Plan, and Test Results; required BLM documentation for the project; and, the BLM-provided data files used to test the tools were delivered to Victoria Smith at the BLM National operations Center.

From February until delivery Argonne worked to complete the two tools in response to comments from BLM on the first tool and on Argonne's assessment of the highest priority work that could be completed with remaining funds. The tools are capable of being utilized in the ePlanning System being deployed throughout the BLM.

The original intent of the project was to update and improve an existing program called CARAT that was being used in a few BLM offices to track processing of oil and gas applications. The primary needs were to modernize CARAT to allow it to be used in any BLM office using standard data sets, to improve its overall functionality, and to help speed up processing of oil and gas applications. The tools that have been delivered have been designed to deal generically with land use applications (including oil and gas applications) and to function within the ePlanning System.

Current Status

(September 2009) 
A revised final draft of the users’ needs document is currently in review by BLM’s project manager. Argonne is awaiting guidance from BLM regarding the proposed approach to development of the prototype. Once this is received expectations are to proceed with the prototype design.

Rather than wait for BLM to complete their review of the first tool, Argonne has proceeded with development of the second tool which will allow resource specialists to identify resources that might have cumulative impact concerns. It is almost complete. Argonne has proceeded with the second tool to insure we can meet the planned project completion date.

Argonne will be exploring opportunities to utilize the tools with other federal agencies. All project activities have been completed. A copy of the ePlanning file and example data has been submitted to NETL. Additional information on this tool, contact Jim Kuiper, Argonne, 630-252-6206 or

Project Start
Project End
DOE Contribution


Performer Contribution


Contact Information

NETL – Jesse Garcia ( or 918-699-2036) 
ANL – Jim May ( or 303-986-1140)