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CEtechnology's Facility Siting - Land Evaluation/Site assessment!

The original LESA Guidebook was used by government planners interested in developing a Land Evaluation and Site Assessment system for their state, region, or local community's development (i.e. farmland). CEtechnology has since modified and extended LESAs application to address todays society needs for more encompassing SITUATIONAL AWARENESS.

CEtechnology's LESA is a numeric rating system for scoring sites to help in formulating policy or making land-use decisions regarding HOMELAND SECURITY, EMERGENCY MANAGEMENT, ENVIRONMENTAL HEALTH AND SAFETY, and ECONOMIC DEVELOPMENT. The system is designed to take into account both Land Evaluation (LE) eg. soil quality and other Site Assessment (SA) factors affecting a site's importance for specific LAND USES. The Guide explains what steps are involved and how to himplement them.

Early classifications, based on current use or land capabilities, were compiled and profiled by the National Resources Planning Board. Resource rating systems for agriculture, as well as for forestry and outdoor recreation uses combined ratings for land capability, suitability, and feasibility. Capability studies were used to evaluate physical attributes for potential uses, such as agriculture, while suitability studies evaluated the existing conditions, and feasibility studies evaluated costs of bringing land into production. "Ecological determinism" method employs suitability analysis for various land uses in an overlay format to evaluate the most environmentally suited locations for development activities.

The U.S. Department of Agriculture's Natural Resources Conservation Service (NRCS) developed several soil-based systems to classify farmlands. These included the land capability system, which contains eight classes based on limitations to agriculture and, more recently, the important farmland classification system, based on soil qualities and economic importance to state and local economies.

The uniqueness of LESA was that it provided a national model with consistent terminology and a set of classification procedures using soil-based and other site factors while offering a great deal of local flexibility. A generic LESA system was adopted by USDA in federal administrative rules to be used y federal agencies in evaluating projects causing agricultural land conversion. More than 200 state and local governments in the U.S. have adapted LESA procedures for their own circumstances and policy objectives. Once certified by NRCS, state or local LESA systems are used in place of the federal LESA system for evaluating projects proposed or reviewed by federal agencies. LESA is an analytical tool, not a farmland protection program. State or local governments can help preserve lands for agriculture through land-use planning policies, agricultural districts or zoning, acquisition of development rights, or other techniques as well as by strengthening the local farming economy through tax incentives and agricultural development programs.

LESA's role is to provide systematic and objective procedures to rate and rank sites for agricultural importance in order to help officials make decisions. A LESA system can be useful in addressing many questions, including the following: What land should a city, town, or county designate in its comprehensive, master, or general plan or zoning ordinance for long-term continuation in agricultural use? How can agricultural lands be ranked into two or more land classes? Which farm sites should be given highest priority for purchase of development rights? What is the significance of highway project impacts on farmland? Should a zoning permit be given to partition farm land or to allow a non-farm use? Which site among development project alternatives least impacts agricultural lands?

The primary subject of this Guide is the development of agricultural LESA systems for state or local use. However, LESA can be adapted to a number of other resources, such as forestland, rangeland, aggregate sites, riparian zones, and wetlands, as well as evaluating land suitabilities for urban or rural development. This guidebook addresses the range of topics a state or local government committee will encounter in developing a local LESA system, beginning with the question of whether a LESA system is needed or not. Once it is determined that a LESA svstem is needed, the Guidebook outlines steps for the following: appointing a LESA committee, specifying one or more factors measuring soil quality for the Land Evaluation component, specifying another set of factors relating to non-soil site conditions for the Site Assessment component, developing a rating scale for each factor, assigning weights to each of the factors, tallying the weighted factor ratings to obtain a LESA score, and preparing score thresholds for decision making.

    This Guide is organized into the following chapters by steps in the LESA development process:
  • Chapter 1 sets out the basic concepts and procedures of the LESA system.
  • Chapter 2 outlines the procedures for assessing potential users and types of applications for a LESA system.
  • Chapter 3 presents process options for working with local committees to formulate a LESA system.
  • Chapter 4 addresses the selection and scaling of Land Evaluation factors.
  • Chapter 5 addresses the selection and scaling of Site Assessment factors.
  • Chapter 6 discusses ways to combine and weight LE and SA factors.
  • Chapter 7 explains ways to test a draft LESA system before approving it for general use.
  • Chapter 8 explores the problems encountered in setting LESA thresholds for various types of decisions and suggests methods for establishing thresholds.
  • Chapter 9 summarizes the key points discussed in the Guidebook.
  • The Bibliography directs the reader to more detail on certain topics.
  • The Glossary defines certain terms used in the Guidebook.
  • The Appendices provide supporting material for the text, as well as supplemental information on various topics.

The term FACTOR is used to label a group of attributes, such as soil potential, size, compatibility, or scenic quality. FACTOR SCALE or SCALING refers to the way points are assigned to a factor. For example, farm size may be scaled by assigning points from 0 to 100 to a series of size groups. The number of groups and the method of scaling is left to the local committee, although this Guidebook outlines examples for many factors. FACTOR RATING refers to the number of points assigned to the factor for a particular site, before weighting. WEIGHTED FACTOR RATING is used to denote the factor rating after weighting. RANKING refers to relative importance of a site compared to other sites. SCORE is used for the total of all weighted factor ratings, i.e., a LESA score. WEIGHTING refers to assigning a weight (for example, O-1.0) to each factor in order to recognize the relative importance of the factor in the LESA system. System refers to all the factors, weights, and scales used in the evaluation of soils and other site conditions.

LESA is a system for combining soil quality factors with other factors that affect the importance of the site for continued agricultural use. Soil quality factors are grouped under Land Evaluation (LE). The other factors are grouped under Site Assessment (SA). The SA factors are of three types: NON-SOIL factors related to agricultural use of a site, factors related to DEVELOPMENT PRESSURES, and OTHER PUBLIC VALUES of a site. Thus, an agricultural LESA system may contain some or all of the following components: Land evaluation Soil-based factors. Site assessment SA-1: Factors other than soil-based qualities measuring limitations on agricultural productivity or farm practices. SA-2: Factors measuring development pressure or land conversion. SA-3: Factors measuring other ublic values, such as historic or scenic values. In actual practice, most sites will have more than one soil type. Soil potential ratings could be used as the sole LE factor or two or more soil factors could be used. The SA factors can be combined in several ways.

The committee that formulates the LESA system will typically conclude that some factors are more important than others. Accordingly, the committee will assign a relative weight to each factor. The approach used in this Guide to use a weight range of 0 to 1.00, so that all weights add up to 1.00 for a particular factor. Once the system is set up, each site is rated for each factor on a scale from O-100 . Then, each factor rating is multiplied by the corresponding factor weight to obtain a weighted factor rating. Weighted ratings are summed to yield the total LESA score, which will range between 0 and 1OO. It is important to field test the draft LESA system, perhaps several times, in order to adjust the factor scales or weights. A comparison of LESA site rankings to an independent ranking of sites (bench marking) may also helpful in evaluating the Lesa system.


Contact Ed Moll ....................................................................................................................................................................................................or Carl Moll
CEtechnology - 241 Warner Rd, Lancaster, NY, 14086. (716-685-4230).
Let us know how we can help you! last updated 09/15/07