How to Use the Imagery and Data from Landscape Explorer

We've made it easy for researchers, GIS professionals, and conservation practitioners to work with the historical imagery data from Landscape Explorer for research, communication, or other non-commercial uses.

The historical imagery is distributed under the Creative Commons Attribution-Noncommercial 4.0 International license. Use it freely for non-commercial purposes. For commercial uses, please contact the University of Montana team.

    1. Stream to Desktop GIS using a Web Map Tile Service (WMTS)
    2. Direct Download as raster tiles
    3. Google Earth Engine Access

For a seamless integration without direct analysis, streaming via WMTS is efficient and bandwidth-friendly. However, do note that streaming does not provide metadata; it should be downloaded separately if required.

For those seeking to analyze the imagery data, you can download it directly or access it via Google Earth Engine. Both these methods include metadata.

1) Stream to Desktop GIS

Landscape Historical Imagery WMTS url:

Note: Metadata (e.g., imagery acquisition date, USGS source imagery) cannot be streamed via WMTS. For metadata, download the shapefile directly from here (approx. size: 2.2GB).

Streaming the imagery in ArcGIS Pro

First, make sure there is at least one map open in the project as shown below. If there is not a map within the project, from the ‘Insert’ tab click ‘New Map’.

From the ‘Insert’ tab menu, click on ‘Connections’ → ’Server’ → click ‘New WMTS Server’

In the pop-up window, paste the WMTS file ( ) then click OK.

The connected WMTS will be located in the ‘Catalog’ pane under ‘Servers. The imagery layer can be added to the map by either double-clicking on the layer or right-clicking → ‘Add to Current Map’

Stream the imagery to QGIS

In the ‘Browser’ panel, right click on ‘WMS/WMTS’ then click ‘New Connection’

This will open a new window where you can enter the connection details.

The ‘Name’ entry will correspond to the name of the connection in your browser once added; choose a descriptive title for the ‘Name’

In the ‘URL’ entry, paste the WMTS file ( )

Click ‘OK’ when finished.

Now that the connection has been added, navigate back to the ‘WMS/WMTS’ folder in the browser pane and expand the folder by clicking the arrow on the left side of the folder, or by double clicking. Do the same to open the new connection you named in the previous step.

There is now a layer that can be added to the map (‘Landscape Explorer Imagery - CONUS West’) right clicking and choosing ‘Add Layer to Project’ or by simply double clicking on the layer.

2) Direct Download

Imagery is available for direct download from the University of Montana archive. They are split into raster tiles and grouped by state.

Inside each state folder (e.g., ‘KS/’), find the 'TILE_INDEX.pdf' to identify your tile of interest. Each raster tile is approx. 3.0 to 4.0 GB in size. A metadata shapefile is included with each zipped tile file.


3) Google Earth Engine Access

Google Earth Engine, powered by Google Cloud Platform, also hosts Landscape Explorer’s historical imagery. Access these data using the following assets:

Imagery ImageCollection: ‘projects/wlfw-um/assets/historical-imagery/conus-west’

Metadata FeatureCollection: ‘projects/wlfw-um/assets/historical-imagery/conus-west-seamlines’

Alternatively, use this direct link.


Questions about using Landscape Explorer's imagery in your projects?

Reach out to the University of Montana team.