Decentralization of governance and natural resource management is an ongoing process in many parts of Africa and Asia. Natural resource management requires spatial land resource data for planning. However, currently the financial and human capacity for natural resource mapping, monitoring and modelling remains low in local governments. In this context, this paper explores how new opportunities provided by the increasing availability of free satellite imagery, digital elevation data and open source spatial analysis software, can be applied by local government and NGOs to conduct sophisticated natural resource mapping and modelling in ways that meet their needs and incorporates local knowledge. Reported are cases of a local government using free geospatial data and GIS software to improve evidence-based natural resource management in the developing world with a focus on raster data applications for satellite image analysis and terrain modelling. It is argued that, through removing barriers to uptake, such applications provide a means of decentralizing landscape analysis skills to improve local natural resource management. This hypothesis is supported through examples of a local government applying these tools in eastern Indonesia, and within this context barriers to wider adoption are explored.