NRIS Online Interactive Mapper

(NRIS is the Montana State Library’s Natural Resource Information System)

Description is current as of March 28, 2002

Nature & Purpose of the database: The NRIS Mapper is an information visualization and location tool. While some types of data and information are directly accessible in the mapper, still more information and databases can be reached through links provided in the mapper. The mapper assists the user  in finding what information that is available for a particular area by allowing the user  to specify an area of interest (a county, township, watershed, planning area, or a one mile buffer around a town, road or stream). The mapper covers the entire state of Montana and includes (or provides links to) a wide and growing variety of natural resource information. 

Base maps provided by the mapper include: USGS topographic maps and digital orthophotoquads (aerial photos), water bodies, watersheds, towns, counties & highways. All information on the mapper can be viewed online as well as downloaded as an ArcView shapefile for GIS applications.

Location of sample sites/areas assessed: all of Montana

Location information in database: 

  •    Horizontal_Coordinate_System_Definition

  •    Grid_Coordinate_System_Name:  State Plane Coordinate System 1983

  •    SPCS_Zone_Identifier:  2500

  •    Map_Projection_Name:  Lambert Conformal Conic

  •    Standard_Parallel:  45      Standard_Parallel:  49

  •    Longitude_of_Central_Meridian:  -109.5

  •    Latitude_of_Projection_Origin:  44.25

  •    False_Easting:   600000      False_Northing:  0

  •    Planar_Distance_Units:  meters

  •    Geodetic_Model

  •    Horizontal_Datum_Name:  North American Datum of 1983

  •    Altitude_Encoding_Method:  Implicit coordinate

Time frame: Varies with type of information. Information associated with parameters that do not change or change very slowly (geology, soil type, road locations, etc) is based on a one time data collection effort; some information is based on more changeable data but has been summarized into long term averages (long term climate data); while other information provides dynamic data (for example, water quality and flows).  Data provided through linked sites are updated automatically when those sites update data.

Parameters available on the Mapper:


  • Land Use (based on USGS 250k quads from 1970’s & 80’s –urban, agriculture, range, forest, wetland, bare, water, snow)

  • Land ownership (USFS, BLM, USFWS, NPS, state lands, tribal, local government, private)

  • Special designations (of public land – wilderness, wild/scenic rivers, research areas, BLM special lands)

  • Conservation easements (USFWS, USFS, MT FWP, private)

  • 1990 & 2000 Census Block Population Density (areas of various density, total population & ethnic breakdown)


  • TMDL streams (streams not fully supporting their uses; reports on stream miles impaired for various uses)

  • FWP Stream data (maps of streams included in FWP’s fisheries database (MRIS) & links to that database)

  • Montana dams (name, stream, owner, height, storage)

  • USGS gauging stations (ID #, name, HUC & LINKS to USGS site flow site – see description of that database)

  • Watershed Group area (identifies groups working in the area)

  • NWI wetland data (USFWS’s National Wetland Inventory data – see description of that database; currently, no NWI information is available for the upper Clark Fork)

  • US Army Corps 404 permits (project id, name, description, permit type, water body; LINKS to Corps’ database where much more detailed information available


  • Public Water Supplies (location, public water supply ID, population served; does not link to GWIC database)

  • Groundwater Information Center Wells (ID, water right #, owner, depth, date completed, LINKS to GWIC database which provides detailed well log info (See also description of GWIC database)

WATER RIGHTS (ID, water right #, owner, priority date, location of diversion & use)

  •  Points of Diverstion—Wells, Reservoirs, Streams;  Points of Use, Irrigation Use polygons


  • 1990 & 2000 Septic Tank Density (areas of high, medium & low density & area of city sewer)

  • Railroad Right-of-way (location, name, miles of)

  • Wastewater discharge locations (NPDES permit #, facility name, description, receiving water, discharge type; LINKS to DEQ permit database with more detailed info on permit; not working March 28, 2002)

  • Hazardous spill sites (site ID & name, date of spill, lat/long)

  • Crude oil pipelines (ID, location, owner, fuel  type, size, length in miles)

  • Underground Storage Tanks (facility ID, name, address, facility type, # tanks, leaking? Active?; LINKS to database with more info like size & content of tanks)

  • Mines (ID 3, name, activity, commodity, operation type; for abandoned mines, volume of waste rock & tailings)

  • Landfills (name, license #, active or closed; if closed, has closure date; if active, has area served)

  • Superfund sites

  • Federal (site ID, name, county, NPL status; appears to link to database but was not working Mar 28, 2002)

  • Also Toxic Release Inventory sites (facility ID, name, county NPL status,  LINKS to EPA database)

  • State (site ID, name, area, description)


  • Weather Service realtime data (clicking on sites LINKS you to the Weather Service data for that site)

  • DNRC water project grants (ID number, applicant, description, start & end date, funds authorized & spent)

  • DEQ priority wetlands (a set of reference wetlands scattered around the state; for each wetland you can obtain: name, lat/long, click on site code to get: climatic & geologic setting, hydrologic type, basin character, water chemistry, sediment description). LINKS to an macroinvertebrate database for these wetlands & annotated bibliography on Montana wetlands.

  • RWRP sites (sites described by the UM Riparian & Wetland Research Program; clicking on sites LINKS you to the RWRP database description of that site – extensive vegetative, & some soils & hydrologic information)

  • Heritage Wetland sites (wetlands described by the Mt Heritage Wetland system – none in upper Clark Fork)

Quality of data: Much of the data are meant to be used at a scale of 1:100,000 or coarser. The finest scale data is 1:24000.  There is metadata available for much of the data. It can be accessed from the mapper when viewing the  mapped data.

Relevant reference:  none

Responsible party contact information: Gerry Daumiller, of NRIS (406) 444-5358

How to access the mapper:    Note: more interactive map applications are available at:   All information on the mapper can also be downloaded as an ArcView shapefile for GIS applications.

Usefulness to restoration planning: 

When planning restoration projects, it is useful to see the location of impaired streams and of regular monitoring sites. It is also helpful to see the proximity of potential water quality  threats to streams & wells.

Recommendations for making the information more useful:   

  • Provide 6th code watersheds as a base map.

  • Reorganize list of available information into more logical form (see organization on home page of this information system)

  • If it is practical to put the following information at 1:24000 scale on the mapper, it would be useful:

  • Land Cover Type; Potential habitat of species of special concern & important game species

  • SSURGO information like: highly erodible soils,  reclamation ease, runoff potential (surface contamination risk), groundwater contamination risk (CEC, permeability, depth to saturated soils),  hydric soils; areas of contaminated soils & areas of contaminated groundwater; jurisdictional & functional wetlands. 

  • It would be useful if the Public Water Supply wells were also linked to the GWIC database so that more information on these wells could be accessed through the mapper. Currently, only private wells are so linked.

  • If there are databases on mines and landfills, it would be helpful to link to these.