Frequently Asked Questions

  • What is GIS?
    The Department of Conservation manages its spatial data using GIS. A GIS provides the ability to create, maintain, edit, query, analyze, and display data based on either locations on the ground or attributes in our databases. This very powerful tool enables the Department of Conservation to provide information and support or enforce policies to protect the state's environment, economy, and residents.
  • Why is GIS data important?

    GIS Data is important for measuring and mapping (or, making visual) countless types of information related to a specific geographic area. This could be how land changes over time, such as population growth and the changing use of land, or mapping earthquake faults so developers can avoid risky areas for high rise buildings or home. Government organizations, city planners, researchers regularly use GIS data for purposes such planning infrastructure and protecting land resources.

  • I don't know GIS. How do I use this site?

    Visitors can use this site in several different ways, depending on what type of data you’re looking for and if you’d like to download that data for individual use (usually this would be for further research).

    The simplest place to start is with the Department of Conservation Data Viewer, which has many options for customizing the data you can see.

    Users with no GIS experience can use our mapping data to answer basic questions about California’s geography, such as:

    Q: How do I know if I live in an earthquake zone or do I live near an earthquake fault?
    A: One resource is the California Geologic Survey’s Fault Activity Map.

    Q: What kind of agriculture is near me?
    A: Check out the agriculture subject area. From there you can narrow your search or zoom in on a region within the state.

    Q: How many landslides have there been lately?
    A: You can see more about landslides in the California Geology subject area, which has a California Landslide Inventory from the past 50 years.

    Q: How many oil wells are near me?
    A: This information is in the oil & gas subject area. Start with accessing the Oil & Gas Well Finder interactive web map, then enter your location details or zoom in to learn more.

    Try exploring a few different map types and customizing the data options to experience how to create a unique map. For help or specific user support questions please email

  • How do I use DOC's GIS data and maps?

    The department provides data and maps in multiple ways. These range from downloadable data and maps to interactive web maps built on data services hosted by the department. Click here to learn more about ways to access data & maps. More information for people that want to use the data is available here.

    Conducting analysis or composing new maps using DOC data will likely require GIS software and training.

  • Where do I get GIS software?

    There are several sources for GIS software both commercial and open source (generally free).

    The dominant commercial software vendor is ESRI which provides a full range of GIS software and services and is the primary platform used at the Department of Conservation for desktop, server, and web-based GIS.

    Numerous open source desktop and server GIS solutions exist. QGIS is probably the most popular open source GIS desktop application and compares favorably in functionality to commerical products.

  • Where do I learn more about using GIS?

    Many community colleges, universities, and their extension programs offer Geographic Information Systems (GIS) training.

    There are also self-paced or online resources through software vendors (eg. and GIS community resources (eg. QGIS).

  • How do I get in contact with the DOC about GIS?

    Email with feedback or questions.