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Finding and downloading LANDFIRE data just got easier. The newly updated interactive viewer from Landscape Fire and Resource Management Planning Tools (LANDFIRE) offers a simplified interface, streamlined downloads, and improvements in data layer visualization.

Color screenshot of LANDFIRE Viewer
Screenshot of the LANDFIRE Viewer, as updated in spring 2022. Among its other improvements, the new viewer has a spatial locking tool that allows users to compare multiple LANDFIRE datasets at the same time.

The new viewer will make it easier for casual researchers or the general public to sift through the program’s myriad data layers and learn more about the landscapes of the United States.

“This is easier to use, smarter, looks cleaner, and makes it easier to understand what you’re seeing,” said Tim Hatten, the LANDFIRE Project Manager at the USGS Earth Resources Observation and Science (EROS) Center.

USGS EROS is one of the partners in the multi-agency LANDFIRE program, which is led by the Department of Interior and USDA Forest Service. It offers a host of georeferenced land cover information for the Conterminous U.S. (CONUS), Alaska, Hawaii, and the U.S. insular areas, including vegetation type and height, fuels and disturbances, and biophysical settings (pre-colonial land cover).

LANDFIRE data layers are widely used as a baseline information source for the fire science community, but they also serve as a starting point for a host of scientific inquiry on a variety of topics, among them carbon sequestration and hydrological modeling, ecosystem assessments, and wildlife habitat suitability studies.

Among the improvements:

  • Simplified design: Each LANDFIRE data layer and LANDFIRE version (2001, 2014, 2016, 2019 Limited) can be toggled on and off with the click of a mouse.
  • Easier navigation: Zoom in and out of an area by scrolling or tapping the on-screen magnifying glass, tap pixels to identify and compare them, toggle the legend on and off, and compare data layers in the same area of interest at the same time in multiple windows with the spatial locking tool.
  • Quick and easy downloads: Just draw an area of interest, select your data layers, enter your email address, and wait a few minutes for your data to arrive.
  • Multiple dataset comparisons: Users can add Web Mapping Service (WMS) links for other geospatial datasets to compare them with LANDFIRE mapping products

Some major users in the fire science community, such as the Interagency Fuel Treatment Decision Support System (IFTDSS), pull every new pixel of LANDFIRE data using direct portals.

Color map showing LANDFIRE Reference Dataset
LANDFIRE Reference Database plot locations. 

The viewer, by contrast, offers an access point for the program’s dense datasets to the rest of the world. Most users who get LANDFIRE data get it through the viewer, which logged 30,147 downloads in 2021 alone.

“When I say ‘users,’ we’re talking about the public,” Hatten said. “That includes everyone from the academics to citizen scientists, to the homeowner who wants to know something about the forests around them. This allows them to look at the data through the viewer and download it right there.”

The ease-of-use improvements will be a boon to geographers who decide to dive into LANDFIRE datasets, according to Inga La Puma, a scientist and Contractor to the USGS EROS Center who serves as the technical lead for the LANDFIRE program. The new viewer, she said, is “a lot more like what GIS people are used to dealing with,” with a simple interface for switching between data layers.

“If you are interested in a small forest near your study site, or your entire state, you can decide what area to download by easily drawing a square or polygon with the download tool,” La Puma said. “That functionality was available in our previous viewer, but it’s straightforward and versatile in the new viewer.”

La Puma sees particular value in a simplified approach to data perusal, given the density of LANDFIRE’s datasets. The base viewer displays LANDFIRE’s Existing Vegetation Type (EVT), whose legend includes more than 800 types, and the viewer’s identification button makes it easy to pinpoint any 30-meter pixel’s EVT class. With a mouse click, users can jump from a layer like EVT to LANDFIRE’s Public Events Database, a catalog of landscape disturbances submitted by Federal, State and local agencies that supplements satellite-derived disturbance data and attributes a cause, such as prescribed burns, and mechanical removal and the like to LANDFIRE’s annual disturbance layers.

La Puma, who often appears during The Nature Conservancy’s LANDFIRE open office hours on the last Wednesday of each month, said that the events data layer can save time for geographers who might otherwise go searching for disturbance data themselves. With new disturbances added each year, simple access to that dataset through the viewer can benefit fire scientists looking for the most recent information about their study area.

“We constantly see people collecting this data when there’s no reason for them to do it because we already have,” La Puma said.

The navigation should feel familiar to users of the respective viewers of two other land cover and change datasets produced at the USGS EROS Center: the National Land Cover Database (NLCD) and the USGS Land Change Monitoring, Assessment, and Projection (LCMAP) initiative. The new LANDFIRE Viewer’s interface aligns closely with the viewers for those two projects and is built using the same underlying infrastructure.

The WMS feature makes it easy to add NLCD and LCMAP data layers to the viewer, which allows users to compare, contrast, and ultimately decide which product makes the most sense for a particular project. The comparison feature isn’t limited to USGS EROS projects, however. Any dataset with a WMS layer can be added to the new LANDFIRE Viewer for comparison.

“You won’t be able to do analysis right there in the side-by-side viewer, but you will be able to get a good idea of what you want to download to do your analysis,” Hatten said. “That’s going to be good for LANDFIRE analysts, it’s going to be good for analysts who work with these other datasets, and it’s going to be great for the general public.”

Follow this link to learn more about LANDFIRE.

Follow this link to use the new LANDFIRE viewer.

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