In less than six years since it was formed, the Oregon Lidar Consortium (OLC) has collected 16 million acres of high-resolution data, which is used for a variety of mapping, research, and analysis projects. On their own, many users of the OLC’s data—including federal, state, and local government agencies as well as private companies—would not be able to afford to collect nearly as much airborne lidar data, if any at all. The OLC has significantly increased geospatial capabilities in Oregon and established a model that other states can follow.
Oregon’s tradition of first-in-the-nation initiatives include its pioneering 1973 land-use planning legislation that created an institutional structure for statewide planning. It required every Oregon city and county to prepare a comprehensive plan in accordance with a set of general state goals and required every city to establish an “urban growth boundary” to prevent sprawl. This occurred just as geographic information systems were becoming viable tools for planners. Therefore, in Oregon, and particularly in the Portland area, GIS and land-use planning grew up together, enabling the state’s celebrated land-use and transportation planning system. In 2003, the Oregon Department of Geology and Mineral Industries (DOGAMI) joined pilot efforts to collect high-resolution lidar data throughout the state. Four years later, it formed the Portland Lidar Consortium that brought together 17 federal, state, and local agencies to acquire 2,200 square miles of high-quality public domain lidar data. The consortium approach enables the seamless collection of large swaths of lidar data while greatly reducing collection costs per unit area, ensuring uniform quality control and allowing even small jurisdictions to benefit from the acquisition of lidar data that they otherwise would not be able to afford.