Download all Ecological Site Descriptions for a MLRA from EDIT

I recently needed to download Ecological Site Descriptions (ESD) for a large part of the area I work in. The NRCS, Jornada Experimental Range and New Mexico State University have a handy website, EDIT that they provide all ESDs by Major Land Resource Areas (MLRA), wrapped in a nice user interface. In the past I've just used the site to view and download the ESDs as I needed them. But today I noticed that the EDIT website added a Developer Resources section page. It even has examples in R. I figured it was time to get to know the EDIT API.

The code below will download all ESD's in MLRA in Colorado. It is does the same thing as Tutorial 2 on EDITs website but uses tidy packages.


For this example we use three packages: tidyverse for pipes, dplyr, stringr and readr; here (you can probably skip this if you use Rstudio), and janitor to convert data frame headers to snake_case and fix ESD names.


Get a list of Ecological sites for a MLRA

base_url <- ""

list_url <- paste0(base_url, mlra, "/class-list.txt")
ecoclasses <- read_tsv(list_url, skip=2)%>%

Use stringr to filter just colorado sites

filter(str_detect(ecological_site_id, "CO$"))

The result should look like this:

# A tibble: 21 x 4
mlra ecological_site_id ecological_site_legacy_id ecological_site_name
<chr> <chr> <chr> <chr>
1 036X R036XY038CO R036XY038CO Wet Meadow
2 036X R036XY110CO R036XY110CO Shallow Clay Loam - ~
3 036X R036XY111CO R036XY111CO Steep Shallow Clay L~
4 036X R036XY113CO R036XY113CO Semidesert Juniper L~
5 036X R036XY114CO R036XY114CO Mountain Pinyon
6 036X R036XY141CO R036XY141CO Shallow Loamy Mesa T~
7 036X R036XY142CO R036XY142CO Loamy Mesa Top - (Pi~
8 036X R036XY266CO R036XY266CO Salt Meadow
9 036X R036XY284CO R036XY284CO Loamy Foothills
10 036X R036XY287CO R036XY287CO Stony Foothills
# ... with 11 more rows

Make it loopable

We then need to a write a function that we can reuse in a loop. We will loop over each row of the co_classes dataframe using the by() function. The function will build a url to each ESD pdf that we want to download and then download the file at that url.

download_esd<-function(x, mlra, output_path){
base_url <- ""
doc_url<-paste0(base_url, mlra, "/", x$ecological_site_id, ".pdf")
download.file(doc_url, paste0(output_path,"/",x$ecological_site_id," - ", janitor::make_clean_names(x$ecological_site_name),".pdf"), mode="wb") ## janitor:: here is necessary because some of the names have characters that are not safe for fiel names.

You can test everything is working with:

download_esd(co_classes[1,], mlra, here("output", "test")) ## Make sure that output/test is an actual folder!

Instead of here("output", "test") you can also just use "output/test" if you are in Rstudio.

Loop away

Now we just need to loop over the dataframe and download each one.

#create a folder ouput/co or whatever you choose before running
by(co_classes, seq_len(nrow(co_classes)),download_esd, mlra, here("output", "co"))

And boom, you should have a folder with all of the ESDs for Colorado in MLRA36.