Conservation Planning

Science Center Objects

Conservation planning tools, such as those listed below, have been developed by USGS scientists to assist resource managers in prioritizing areas for future energy development.

Each project below is associated with a type of energy production or transmission. Types of energy production or transmission are represented by the following icons:

Energy and wildlife icons

Abbreviations used in project descriptions are defined on the Energy and Wildife Abbrevations page.


Oil and gas extraction icon

Energy Futures for Wyoming

Science Center: Fort Collins Science Center

As part of the Wyoming Landscape Conservation Initiative (WLCI), USGS is mapping the locations and extents of potential electricity-generating resources in Wyoming. This work includes mapping resources, such as natural gas, coal, wind, and hydropower, as well as transmission and transportation corridors. Results of this work can be used to inform the WLCI and other energy-related studies. More broadly, USGS researchers are developing an energy-assessment framework and methods that can be used in other regions.


Biofuel icon

Evaluating Bioenergy Opportunities in the Southwest

Science Center: Southwest Biological Science Center

USGS is collaborating with the USDA Arid Land Agricultural Research Center and Ohio University regarding the potential for agave biofuel production to add to our national bioenergy portfolio in marginally productive lands. Agave may represent a highly efficient biofuel, even under nonirrigation conditions, but the ecosystem consequences of this development on drylands, including habitat and wildlife, remain unknown. The project aims to explore the potential benefits and drawbacks of biofuel production in the Southwest as an alternative energy source and strategy.


Oil and gas extraction, solar energy, and wind energy icons

Geographic Concordance Between Energy Development and Natural or Cultural Resources in Colorado

Science Center: Geosciences and Environmental Change Science Center

Identifying locations where potential conflicts between energy development and natural or cultural resources may arise allows more efficient planning of energy development. USGS scientists are creating a statewide geographic analysis overlaying current areas of energy development and areas suitable for future development of wind, solar, and oil/natural gas with geospatial data on natural and cultural resources to identify areas of potential conflicts. This resource can assist resource managers and industry in prioritizing areas for energy development in Colorado.


Wind power icon

Geographic Context in Wind Energy Land Transformation

Science Center: Geosciences and Environmental Change Science Center

Land transformation, measured as hectares of surface disturbance per megawatt, associated with wind facilities shows wide variation in its reported values. USGS scientists digitized land transformation at 39 wind facilities by using high-resolution aerial imagery and investigated how turbine size, configuration, land cover, and topography affected the levels of total land transformation. The results indicate that the geographic context in which facilities are installed affects the levels of land transformation associated with wind energy. For example, flat topographies had the lowest land transformation, while facilities on mesas had the largest. This information can assist managers with decisions on how to create opportunities for wind energy production that minimize land-cover change through effective siting. Scientists are now investigating the role of geographic context on road networks and how this affects habitat fragmentation around new facilities.


wind and solar icons

Informing Energy Development Siting Decisions With Vertebrate Biodiversity Measures

Science Center: Southwest Biological Science Center

USGS researchers developed vertebrate biodiversity metrics using existing data on suitable habitat for wildlife. The scientists used watershed-scale range models for vertebrate species developed through the USGS National Gap Analysis Program to illustrate how biodiversity metrics may be incorporated into renewable energy siting decisions. These metrics can inform siting guidance for energy development on public lands and help managers in identifying potential energy development conflicts with species of conservation concern.


Quantifying the Potential Effects of Energy Development on Wildlife and Ecosystem Services

Oil and gas extraction icon

Science Center: Geosciences and Environmental Change Science Center

Energy resources are critical for a prosperous and secure Nation, and a clear understanding of the potential effects of energy resource development is necessary for efficient and minimally impactful energy extraction and production activities. USGS scientists are developing and applying probabilistic models to evaluate the potential effects of energy development on landscapes, wildlife, and ecosystem services, building from the geology-based USGS assessments of undiscovered petroleum resources. Ongoing projects are using the energySim model to understand potential surface disturbance changes in sediment erosion associated with energy development and the energy footprint model to evaluate the effects of sage-grouse core area policy on landscape patterns and wildlife habitat.


Oil and gas extraction icon

Sensitive and Rare Plant Distributions and Energy Development in the Colorado Plateau

Cooperative Research Unit: Utah Cooperative Fish and Wildlife Research Unit

USGS scientists have developed optimization models to identify lands where management and conservation conflicts between energy development and sensitive and rare plant species could be minimized. As part of this effort, scientists organized existing data on 21 federally listed, rare and sensitive plant species in the Colorado Plateau. Scientists also are collecting new data on plant locations and developing distribution models that indicate the likelihood of plants being present in specified locations. The plant species distribution models are being analyzed in relation to existing and proposed renewable and oil and gas energy development in the Colorado Plateau. Results from this study can help decision makers select variable risk strategies depending on desired management and energy development goals.


Oil and gas extraction icon

Smart Energy Development in the Sagebrush Ecosystem

The USGS is at the forefront of developing science and tools to help inform policy and management decisions about various aspects of the energy development life cycle. These development strategies are particularly important in the American West where ongoing demands for limited natural resources in sagebrush ecosystems and the need to be cost-effective require that management and regulatory decisions be made at the broader landscape scale. Working with Federal, State, and industry partners, USGS scientists are developing natural resource information, management tools, risk assessments, and scenario planning that will form the scientific foundation needed to target areas in sagebrush ecosystems of high resource potential and low environmental concern to inform effective development strategies.


Offshore wind power icon

Social Effects Associated With Environmental Change in Coastal Oregon

Science Center: Fort Collins Science Center

USGS scientists are assisting BOEM by providing information regarding environmental and human dimensions issues and effects in coastal Oregon. The scientists worked on two case studies situated in areas proximal to two offshore renewable energy lease requests. The studies identified major issues and trends that characterize environmental change in the region; current and potential social, cultural, and economic effects of climate change on Oregon’s coastal population and social systems; and information gaps and barriers to policy implementation related to the effects of climate change on human systems with relevance to OCS policymaking. These studies can help inform BOEM’s environmental reviews for potential offshore renewable energy projects off Oregon’s central coast.