Natural Resources Atlas Helps Vermont Real Estate Professionals Learn About Their Listings

By Anna Marchessault
March 05, 2023

The Vermont Agency of Natural Resources (VT ANR) created and manages the Natural Resources Atlas, a public collection of environmental and natural resource datasets that are translated into clickable layers on a map of Vermont. This Atlas is available for free online and can be used with a Google, ArcGIS, or Facebook account.

More than 150 map layers are available in the atlas to customize a map to your needs. Layers can be added to your map simply by clicking the checkbox next to the layer name. These layers range from the location of wells and groundwater supplies to brownfield sites to the permit status of regulated areas and systems. Some of these layers must be updated manually by the VT ANR team as new data comes out, but others are connected directly to online databases that update them in real time.

First published in December of 2012, the Natural Resources Atlas has been used to create maps for projects across the state, namely by Real Estate Professionals, homeowners and sellers, attorneys, engineers, consultants, and watershed organizations. In the past year, almost 40,000 users have created maps in the Atlas. 

“The Atlas is a great reference tool to inform the public about what goes into ANR permitting,” shares Erik Engstrom, VT ANR Geospatial Information Systems (GIS) specialist and the creator of the Atlas. “If everyone were to use it before they start a project, they would be able to see if there’s deer wintering habitat, endangered or threatened species, floodplains, etc. on their property prior to the permitting process.”

Lake Champlain Sea Grant’s Associate Director, Kris Stepenuck, created a user's manual for the Vermont Natural Resources Atlas which gives step-by-step instructions for how to use it, including screenshots of sample maps. Lake Champlain Sea Grant uses this guide in their Web-based Mapping for Real Estate Professionals workshop. This continuing education workshop, first created in 2014, has been offered ten times, teaching over 200 participants how to use the Atlas.

“The workshop benefits real estate professionals who have never used the Atlas before as well as those who use it regularly but want to know more,” according to Linda Patterson, Lake Champlain Sea Grant Land Use Planning and Water Quality Educator. “Workshop instructors give live demonstrations on how to access the Atlas, how to gather specific data and how to create and print maps for potential homebuyers. Participants get a chance to practice with the Atlas in class. The how-to guide is a fantastic resource for continuing to use the Atlas after the workshop.”

Real estate professionals can log onto the Atlas and learn about construction and alteration regulations, potential flood risks, septic requirements, shoreline protection, and local resources before touring a property with a client. This way, the real estate professional comes prepared for questions about the property and can provide necessary information to the potential home buyer. In fact, many home listings now include screenshots of the property obtained from the Atlas.

“After taking this training, I now feel like I can be more proficient with the ANR Atlas as a whole,” shares one of the workshop participants. “I will definitely be printing well reports for listings, and floodplain maps for buyers who are pursuing properties in questionable areas.”

The Atlas also contains specialty maps that can be selected based on the kind of information you’re looking for. These include floodplain management, wetlands, and almost 30 other options. This makes it easier than having to sift through the many layers on the main map if you already know what you’re looking for.

The Web-Based Mapping workshop is one of eight different topics offered to real estate professionals, seven in Vermont, and one in New York. Each workshop covers regulations and practices related to land use and property management and how they impact water quality and property values.

Patterson hopes to adapt the workshops for use with mortgage loan officers, home inspectors and home buyers and sellers.  She strongly recommends the how-to guide as a tool for anyone looking to get started with using the Atlas.