While mapping vegetation and land cover using remotely sensed data has a rich history of application at local scales, it is only recently that the capability has evolved to allow the application of classification models at regional, continental and global scales. The development of a comprehensive training, testing and validation site network for the globe to support supervised and unsupervised classification models is fraught with problems imposed by scale, bioclimatic representativeness of the sites, availability of ancillary map and high spatial resolution remote sensing data, landscape heterogeneity, and vegetation variability. The System for Terrestrial Ecosystem Parameterization (STEP) - a model for characterizing site biophysical, vegetation and landscape parameters to be used for algorithm training and testing and validation - has been developed to support supervised land cover mapping. This system was applied in Central America using two classification systems based on 428 sites. The results indicate that: (1) it is possible to generate site data efficiently at the regional scale; (2) implementation of a supervised model using artificial neural network and decision tree classification algorithms is feasible at the regional level with classification accuracies of 75-88%; and (3) the STEP site parameter model is effective for generating multiple classification systems and thus supporting the development of global surface biophysical parameters.