The Land Cover/Land Use (LCLU) database records all Montana natural vegetation, land cover and land use, classified from satellite and aerial imagery, mapped at a scale of 1:100000, and interpreted with supporting ground-level data.

The Land Use/Land Cover (LULC) Framework records natural biological communities, disturbances (e.g., pests and invasive species, fire), and human activities. Map units are based on an Ecological Systems mid-scale classification adapted for Montana and can be crosswalked to the US National Vegetation Classification.

Data and Documentation

Montana Land Cover Working Group

The Montana Land Cover Working Group invites participation from all users. User input on land cover mapping activities can provide valuable information for enhancing the preliminary Montana Land Cover (MTLC) 2021 dataset that is currently under development. Please see our Land Cover Story Map for details and current updates.

MSDI Montana Land Use/Land Cover Data

Land Use/Land Cover data are provided for the entire state of Montana as an Esri file geodatabase. The data are stored in the Montana State Plane Coordinate System.

Land Use/Land Cover Framework Web Service

This application provides access to the Montana Spatial Data Infrastructure (MSDI) Land Use/Land Cover dataset. This service displays the MSDI Framework Land Use/Land Cover as compiled by the Montana Natural Heritage Program. The Montana Land Cover Framework is available for 2010 – 2017 and contains eight consecutive years of land cover rasters that reflect routine updates to burned areas, agricultural land use, and Transportation and Structures themes. It also incorporates high resolution vegetation mapping products as they become available for recently burned, insect-killed forest, and introduced vegetation. There are three levels of grouping that can be displayed at ANY scale. Beyond 1:2,000,000 scale, the default grouping is Level 1, with 8 broad categories. From 1:2,000,000 to 1:250,000, the default is Level 2, with 27 categories. Beyond 1:250,000, each Land Cover value has its own unique value, and corresponds to Level 3 ecological systems.

Reference Metadata

For more information on the Land Use/Land Cover categories used in the data, see the Montana Ecological Systems Field Guide and the Ecological Systems Field Guide Help File. For more information on vegetation classification systems and crosswalks see the National Vegetation Classification System Standard.


Ecological Site Reviewer Application - The Ecological Site Reviewer (ESR) is an ArcGIS online web map application that displays biophysical data such as soils, elevation, slopes, aspect, frost-free days, landscape level ecological units, ecological sites, classified vegetation and background locational data. The ESR can be used for site preliminary site evaluation, navigating to locations of interest, assessing key environmental attributes, generating maps, and suggesting edits to the data layers. Help Document are also available.

The Montana Natural Heritage Map Viewer is an interactive map that can perform a variety of tasks to access and use MTNHP databases and information. It includes tools to view and query land cover data and land management data. It has tie-ins to the Montana Field Guide and allows users to access and view over 12,000 geo-referenced photos of habitats across Montana.

The Montana Land Cover Validation Toolkit includes geo-referenced pdfs, Land Cover basemaps for use in the ArcGIS Field Map application, and a survey for validating the Land Cover dataset.


The Land Use/Land Cover Framework is a baseline digital raster map of Montana natural and human land cover. The Framework 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 county planning and engineering departments; state, federal, and tribal resource management agencies; private sector businesses such as engineering and environmental consulting; and non-profit land and watershed conservation groups. Because pixel size for the data is 30m, the data are best used at a 1:100,000 scale or greater.

Additionally, the Montana Natural Heritage Program field guides, interactive web map products, and predictive distribution models all rely on the land cover theme as a base dataset.

Theme Lead

Jessica Mitchell
Spatial Analysis Lab Director
Montana Natural Heritage Program
(406) 243-5196 (lab) | (406) 544-9256 (mobile)