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ECOS Application Help

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At any time, click “Help Desk” at the top of any ECOS page or “Contact ECOS” on the bottom navigation bar. A ticket will open that you can submit with your question or comment. Or, call the ECOS Help Desk at 970-226-9468, available Monday–Friday 9 a.m.–6 p.m. ET.


To create and download a copy of this page, click Tools > Export to PDF. The file will appear in your downloaded file folder and can be saved locally.

What Is the Overlay Shapefile Tool?

The shapefile tool allows standard shapefiles created in ArcMap to be overlaid directly onto the HabITS mapper. Once uploaded, shapefiles can be used to automatically create HabITS features (Focus Area, Mechanism Work Area, Project Boundary, Accomplishments). The tool supports polygon, multi-polygon, line, multi-line, point, and multi-point data types.

What are the requirements for shapefiles?


To successfully import shapefiles into the HabITS mapper, BE SURE TO ADHERE TO THE REQUIREMENTS for importable shapefiles (Fig. 5-1), including file-naming conventions and shapefile content.

Note: If you try to import a shapefile and get an error message that says, “Could not process the following shapefiles. Please make sure they are in WGS84 or NAD83 geographic coordinate system with no projection”…

  • Click on the Documentation tab in HabITS
  • On the Tutorials pane, find “Importing Shapefiles from ArcMap” and click on “Tutorial” under that subheading. This tutorial will show you how to import with the appropriate coordinate system. Also see “Import Projection shapefile” (zip file) under the same subheading, if that pertains.

Shapefiles must be zipped. Follow these instructions:

For other issues, submit a ticket to the ECOS Help Desk or call 970-226-9468 (9am-6pm ET).

Figure 5-1. Shapefile requirements.

How do I access the Overlay Shapefile tool?

The Overlay Shapefile tool is available under the Tools menu located on the mapper Control Bar. Open the HabITS mapper, click the Tools drop-down menu on the Control Bar, and click “Overlay Shapefile” (Fig. 5-2). The Overlay Shapefile tool window will be displayed (Fig. 5-3).

Figure 5-2. Overlay Shapefile option on the “Tools” drop-down menu on the Control Bar. 

Figure 5-3. Overlay Shapefile window. Click “Add” to open the file browser. Click the info link for an explanation of specific shapefile requirements for successful importation. 

How do I add a shapefile?

As described above, the Overlay Shapefile tool accepts a zip file that contains matching pairs of .shp and .prj files (see Fig. 5-1). Matching pairs have the same file name (case sensitive), excluding the file extension. The zip file may contain file directories; however, the full directory path is used in name-matching. Multiple .shp and .prj pairs are allowed within a single .zip file. (See Fig. 5-1 for full requirements.) Each pair is loaded as a separate shapefile layer.

  1. To add a shapefile, click “Add” on the Overlay Shapefile window (see Fig. 5-3, blue circle). Browse to the .zip file on your local system, select it, and click “Open.”
  2. As the selected .zip file loads, the map automatically zooms to the maximum extent of all shapefile layers contained in the .zip file, and the individual shapefiles of each feature appear on the list of “Loaded Shapefiles” (Fig. 5-4, red box).
    1. If the file is large and complex, you will see the "Loading Shape File" message at the bottom of the map while it loads.
    2. If the shapefile contains any errors, an error message will be displayed.
    3. To upload additional shapefiles, click the “Add” button and repeat the process.
  3. To remove a shapefile, click the shapefile name to highlight it and then click the “Remove” button. The shapefile will be unloaded from the mapper; of course, the original .zip file still resides on your local computer can be uploaded at any time.
  4. To zoom to a specific shapefile, click the Zoom icon () by the shapefile name.
  5. To toggle (turn on or off) the display of individual shapefiles on () or off (), click the Toggle icon by the shapefile name.

Figure 5-4. Overlay Shapefile Tool showing loaded shapefile and Zoom and Toggle icons.

Follow these steps to create a new feature using the Overlay Shapefile tool

  1. Zoom to an appropriate scale for creating a specific feature class, and if necessary toggle a shape layer to visible ().
  2. Left-click on a loaded shape to select the shape. The selected shape will become highlighted in blue.
    1. Select multiple shapes at once by holding the <SHIFT> key on the keyboard and left-click each shape in succession. Note: Multiple-selected shapes must all be of the same type: polygons or lines or points.
    2. To deselect all selected shapes, press the <ESC> key on the keyboard.
  3. Right-click on the selected shape and choose from the list of options to create a Focus Area, Mechanism, Project, or Accomplishment from the feature.


If a menu option is not visible—e.g., Create Mechanism from feature(s)—check to ensure that the parent object is set to "Active" and the current map scale is appropriate to the feature you are creating.

Figure 5-5. Selected shapefile (in this case an Accomplishment point) turns blue when selected, and a right-click opens the drop-down menu allowing you to create a new feature from the shape or clear the feature.

4. Once a feature is created from your selected shape (green outline, next image), the shape overlay graphic is automatically removed from the map.

5. The newly created HabITS feature is displayed in edit mode with the Edit Toolbar to the left (Fig. 5-6). Use the tools provided on the Edit Toolbar or the right-click menu to modify the feature, similar to editing a digitized shape. For detailed instructions, see appropriate sections in HabITS Chapter 3. Habitat Improvement Module for creating and editing Mechanisms, Projects, and Accomplishments, or HabITS Chapter 4. Focus Areas for those features.


Multi-line, multi-point, or multi-polygon features can be modified using the Polygon Ring, Line Segment, or Multi-Point editing tools. For descriptions of map features and their uses, see the “How does the HabITS mapper work?” section in HabITS Chapter 3. Habitat Improvement Module.

Figure 5-6. Clicking “Create New …Feature” reloads the map in edit mode, where you can reshape or move the new feature, now outlined in green to indicate that it is in edit mode. This feature, a Mechanism, consists of two polygons. A new vertex is being created to edit the left shape.

6. Right-click on the feature and select the “Save … Feature” option (Fig. 5-7; shown, Save Mechanism Feature”). (For Accomplishments, open the Feature dropdown menu on the Control Bar and click “Save.”) The new feature will be outlined in yellow as it is saved to the database, and the Properties form opens in front of it (Fig. 5-8).

Figure 5-7. Save your new feature after editing the shape.

7.  On the Properties form (Fig. 5-8), enter the details of the feature. Be sure to fill in all required fields (*) under the different tabs (or, check the “Planning?” box at the upper left) in order to activate the “Save” button. See appropriate sections in HabITS Chapter 3. Habitat Improvement Module and HabITS Chapter 4. Focus Areas for instructions on completing the Properties form for Mechanisms, Projects, Accomplishments, and Focus Areas.


Figure 5-8. On the properties form, fill in all the required fields under the various tabs (or check the “Planning?” box at the upper left), then click “Save” to create the details record, “OK” in the confirmation popup, and “Close” on the form. Required fields are marked with a red asterisk, and are outlined in red until filled out. Note at the bottom of the form is a note (also in red) listing any tabs containing fields with missing or invalid information.

8. When done, click “Save” to create the details record, “OK” in the confirmation popup, and “Close” on the form to return to the mapper. The new, saved feature shows outlined in yellow with a pink title (Fig. 5-9).

Figure 5-9. The new, saved feature (in this example a Mechanism multi-polygon) shows as outlined in yellow with its Mechanism Name.

9. Repeat the process for any other shapefiles you wish to use to create a feature in the HabITS mapper.


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