Montana Land Cover Layer

An MSDI Framework Layer

Project lead: Jessica Mitchell

Analyst: Claudine Tobalske

The Montana land cover layer is one of fifteen “framework” geographic databases that compose the Montana Spatial Data Infrastructure (MSDI), all of them vital for making maps of Montana and understanding its geography. The Spatial Analysis Lab has been the layer’s steward since its first release in 2009.

A baseline digital raster map of Montana natural land cover and human land use, the Montana land cover layer uses ecological systems and human land uses as its mapping units. Ecological systems occur in similar physical environments, and are influenced by similar events such as flooding, fire, wind, and snowfall. They can be classified from aerial or satellite imagery, and are easily identifiable in the field. Primary users of this theme include land and wildlife management agencies, county and local planners, academic and agency researchers, and recreationists. Because pixel size for the data is 30m, the data are best used at a 1:100,000 scale or greater.

After yearly releases of successive versions (2010-2017) -- all stemming from the same base raster generated from Landsat imagery circa 2000 -- Montana land cover is currently undergoing a major overhaul made possible by the recent release of the Landfire Remap Existing Vegetation Type raster. Based on 2016 imagery, this nationwide dataset was clipped to the state boundary and improved by adding recent agricultural (Montana Department of Revenue Final Land Units 2020) and road (MSDI Transportation framework) data. Still an interim version, MTLC 2021 will receive additional updates over the coming months, such as inclusion of fires that occurred since 2016.


Download the interim 2021 Montana_Landcover geodatabase from the MSDI page.  

Montana Land Cover Inputs 2021