Developed by the EPA, in cooperation with the US Geological Survey (USGS), the US Department of Agriculture's Natural Resources Conservation Service (NRCS) and Forest Service (USFS), the EnviroAtlas is a collection of information tools designed to map "the benefits of nature." The EPA describes these as tools to explore "ecosystem services" - a term coined in the Millennium Ecosystem Assessment, a 2005 report by over 1000 of the world's leading biological scientists to describe the benefits people obtain from natural ecosystems. While abstract in its overarching concept, the EPA site provides some interesting tools for pulling up concrete information that could be useful for making a variety of building decisions, green or otherwise.

The most accessible information for builders and developers is an Interactive Map that allows you to quickly define a range of useful boundaries, including watersheds, Congressional districts, EPA regions, protected lands, and wetlands (but surprisingly not radon zones); and gather information on things like soil drainage, population density or the concentration of housing built before 1950 (but surprisingly not housing built before 1978, which would give a quick visual on the likelihood of lead-paint hazards in a neighborhood). The map can evaluate a neighborhood's distance from a park or from an "impaired waterway" or from an old industrial site saturated with heavy metals. In fact, the tools seem a bit better at identifying pollutants (e.g. the deposition of certain atmospheric pollutants, such as total oxidized nitrogen) and other negative impacts by the built environment on nature than at identifying the "benefits of nature."

For more information, see the EPA's demonstration video.