building the baseline for integrated resource management for rural development.
By Jean Thie. Former Director and Director General of the Lands Directorate, Environment Canada responsible for the Canada land Inventory (CLI) and the Canada Geographic Information System-CGIS.
In 1963 the Federal Government in consultation with the Canada Council of Resource Ministers approved the undertaking of the Canada land Inventory (CLI). The CLI challenge was formidable:
- Provide a comprehensive survey of land capability and use designed to provide a basis for integrated resource and land use planning,
- Complete the mapping within 5 years, for the settled portion of Canada, approximately 2.5 Million Km2
- Prepare a multi-disciplinary assessment of land capability for agriculture, forestry, recreation, wildlife (waterfowl and ungulates), present land use, sport fish a well as pilot integrated land use planning projects in each province.
- In addition present land use was mapped as baseline for regional planning and to measure land use change over time.
- Guidelines for Biophysical Land Classification were developed to provide the ecological framework and basis for capability classification of the landscape.
- This knowledge base would be summarized in over 15’000 land capability maps at scales varying from 1:1’000’000, (for strategic analysis and policy applications) to 1:250’000 (to support regional planning and analysis) and 1:50’000 (to support Integrated land Use Planning and zoning).
The Government of Canada developed the Canada Land Inventory (CLI) under the auspices of the Department of Regional and Economic Expansion (1963-1971) and the Department of the Environment - Lands Directorate (1971- 1994). The program was officially discontinued in 1994.
The process to transfer the data and intellectual property to the National Archives of Canada started in 1995. Since 1995 several Canadian federal departments have been instrumental in extracting the data from the old tapes to modern formats and media, including: National Archives of Canada, Agriculture and Agri-Food Canada, Statistics Canada, and Natural Resources Canada.
Area covered by the CLI
- The Canada Land Inventory area covers 2.5 million square kilometers or about 1/3 of Canada’s Land mass
- The area mapped coincides with the more settled part of the country, where competing land uses are most prominent.
- The maps were originally published and printed at the 1:250,000 scale. Part of British Columbia was published at 1:125,000 scale to accommodate the complex landscape units created by the mountains.
- Both scales were digitized and stored in the Canadian Geographic Information System, the world's first operational GIS, developed for the CLI to facilitate the application and integration of the thousands of maps in national, provincial and regional planning and management.
- Areas outside the CLI boundary were covered by different land inventories such as the Alberta Land Inventory (using a CLI approach), the Northern Land Use Information Program covering most of the lands North of 60. In many of the northern part of the provinces and the Yukon, NWT and Nunavut, and National parks Biophysical and Ecological Land Inventories were carried out after the completion of the CLI. An good example is Manitoba where the Canada-Manitoba Soils Survey and the Manitoba Department of Renewable Resources provided biophysical maps covering Northern Manitoba outside the CLI area
Canada Land Inventory: The Federal Role and Impact
The rapid program implementation required significant innovation in federal provincial program cooperation, organization and horizontal program integration strategies to allow scaling from national to provincial and regional perspectives. The Federal government role (in addition to financing) focused on:
- Development of horizontally compatible and ecologically based classification and national survey standards- Impact: CLI capability classes 1 (best) to 7 (poorest) have become part of society’s land resource planning vocabulary
- Facilitating and correlating National Communities of Practice in land capability classification and land use planning- Impact: The over 1500 professional and technical staff involved in the CLI moved on after its completion to influential roles in regional planning, environment and research and facilitated application in policy, programs and projects.
- National coordination of the survey and Pilot land Use Planning Projects. Impact: accelerated the development of provincial institutions and programs for integrated resource planning.
- Publication of map and reports and the creation of a national digital land resource data base and system. Impact: The Canadian Geographic Information System(CGIS) designed for the CLI became the world’s first GIS, its digital maps are still accessible through the GeoGratis component of the Canadian Geospatial Data Infrastructure
The Classification Methodology
For each of the four sectors - agriculture, forestry, recreation, and wildlife - there are seven classes used to rate land capability. Class 1 lands have the highest and Class 7 lands the lowest capability to support land use activities of each sector. Subclasses are used to identify specific limiting factors for each class.
Land areas with uniform characteristics were mapped using aerial photography and existing information. Capability ratings were then based on field checking and interpretation of all information known or inferred about an area. If a unit is relatively homogeneous, only one class and its subclasses are noted. If, due to limitations of map scale, two or more distinct areas are encompassed by the map unit, then a compound notation is used.
For example, a symbol describing a map unit composed of two capability classes might be:
This symbol describes a map unit made up of 60 percent Class 1 land with no limitations and 40 percent Class 3 land with limitations due to factors E (erosion) and T (topography). Users of CLI must be aware of various assumptions underlying this rating system. The CLI classification is independent of location,accessibility, ownership, distance from cities or roads, and present use of the land, but it does assume good management. Individual sector rating systems are described in greater detail in a series of methodology reports available as PDF files on this site.
The CLI Map Production
The CLI resulted in over 15,000 map sheets at scales varying from 1: 50,000 to 1: 1 million.
- 5 National Summary Reports and including page size national perspectives maps; available as Acrobat PDF files from this site.
- About 40 1: 1 million maps, showing for each sector province wide land capability. Included are a series of “Critical Area Maps” which display a cartographic overlay of the top 3 capability classes for each sector.
- Over one thousand 1: 250,000 scale maps, including for selected areas a series of 1:125,000 for mountainous areas in B.C. These maps were originally distributed through the Canada Map Office of NRCan and Provincial Survey and Mapping Branches. Over 1 million were sold. These printed maps are no longer available. Digital version can be viewed and downloaded from this side in GIS or Windows Meta File formats
- Over 15,000 maps at the 1:50,000 scale were produced. They are only available as black and white “ozalid” prints from Provincial Map offices. Selected areas where digitized as part of the Canada Land Use Monitoring Program.
Sample of a Printed Canada Land Inventory 1:250'000 scale Map
Visualizing Canada Land Inventory Capability Maps on Google Earth
Overlaying the CLI maps on Google
Earth provides an effective way to correlate land capability with the visual landscape. It reinforces the participation of all stakeholders in the regional resource planning and management process. More...
- Land Capability Overlays on Google Earth around Canada's Major Urban Centres:
- The Canada Land Inventory in rural areas:
Sample of an overlay of the CLI Agriculture Map on Google Earth for the Toronto - Hamilton - St. Catharines Area.
This map overlay shows a striking example of the large amount of Class 1 Canada's best) around Toronto. The Last few decades have seen a striking amount of high capability land loss for agriculture, wildlife, and wetlands as result of unbridled urbanization.
Measuring land use change to inform land resource planning, management and policy development
The Canada land Use Monitoring Program was started in 1978 to systematically monitor Land use change in Canada following the completion of the the Canada Land Inventory (CLI). The CLI, in addition to land capability for agriculture, forestry, wildlife (waterfowl and ungulates) and recreation, mapped 'present' land use between 1966 and 1976. The CLUMP program, part of the Lands Directorate of Environment Canada, continued this mapping on a 5 year cycle until 1988.
Canada Land Inventory. 1970. Objectives, Scope and Organization. Department of Regional Economic Expansion. Ottawa. Report No.1
Coombs, D.B., and J. Thie. 1979. “The Canada Land Inventory System.” Pp. 909-933 in Planning the Uses and Management of Land. ASA, CSSA, Soil Science Society of America.
Thie, J. 2010. Issue-Driven Integrated Landscape Management and Innovation in Canada. In: "Sustainable Places" , the 10th anniversary edition of Policy Research Initiative - Horizons, Volume 10, Number 4, pp 16-25, Government Of Canada Policy Research Initiative.
Canada, CLI (Canada Land Inventory). 1976. Land Capability for Agriculture. Report No. 10.
Lacate, D.S., Chair Subcommittee on Bio-Physical Land Classification (comp.). 1969. Guideline for Bio-Physical Land Classification. National Committee on Forest Land, Canadian Forest Service, Publication No. 1264, Ottawa.
Rees, W.E. 1977. The Canada Land Inventory in Perspective. Canada Land Inventory Report No. 12. Ottawa: Lands Directorate, Fisheries and Environment Canada.
Thie, J., W.A. Switzer, and N. Chartrand. 1982. The Canada Land Data System (Canada Geographic Information System) and Its Application to Landscape Planning and Resource Management.
- Tomlinson, R.F. 1967. An Introduction to the Geo-Information System of the Canada Land Inventory. ARDA, Canada Department of Forestry and Rural Development.