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LANDFIRE Named 2017 'Environmental Dream Team' by DOI

In the years since its beginnings in 2004, LANDFIRE has become invaluable to wildfire prevention and response, land management, and environmental monitoring.

GAP/LANDFIRE National Terrestrial Ecosystems 2011 Viewer
This image shows the GAP/LANDFIRE National Terrestrial Ecosystems 2011 Viewer found here: The GAP/LANDFIRE National Terrestrial Ecosystems 2011 dataset represents a highly thematically detailed land cover map of the U.S.  and is produced by the U.S. Geological Survey in collaboration with the LANDFIRE Program. (Public domain.)

LANDFIRE (Landscape Fire and Resource Management Planning Tools Program) is led by the Department of the Interior (DOI) and U.S. Department of Agriculture Forest Service (USFS), in collaboration with The Nature Conservancy.

The inter-agency program's 20 geospatial mapping layers serve as an encyclopedia of ecological information for the United States, used for a wide variety of public and private purposes. In 2017 alone, LANDFIRE data was leveraged in more than 35 environmental projects.

Now, that work has been recognized at a national level.

The U.S. Department of Interior (DOI) recently announced that LANDFIRE had earned the title of “Environmental Dream Team” for 2017.

The DOI's Environmental Achievement Awards (EAA) recognize exceptional efforts towards environmental protection and/or sustainability. The EAA include individual, team, and partner awards, broken into categories like Cultural Resources Protection, Environmental Champion, or Environmental Partnership.

The DOI received 28 total nominations from six bureaus and one office this year. Ten earned awards.

The “Environmental Dream Team” award highlights work that improves collaboration and efficiency across organizational boundaries. To earn the distinction, the LANDFIRE team needed to show that its program was unique in approach and that it produced clear results with the potential for replication.

Those are all areas in which LANDFIRE excels.

“LANDFIRE data provide for environmental benefits with efficiencies in analyses, costs, and reviews,” LANDFIRE’s nomination form says. “This is done through a comprehensive all-lands national dataset that is updated regularly, and its value and results have transformed land management supporting environmental work.”

EROS has been a major partner for LANDFIRE from the start, with dozens of researchers, scientists, and staff reporting to the Center each day for duty. Other EROS staffers support LANDFIRE from locations across the U.S.

EROS team members use remotely-sensed data, ground plot data, and machine learning to produce the geospatial map layers, which include vegetation, disturbance, and fuel characteristics. The publicly-available data are then used by the FS, Bureau of Land Management, and numerous other agencies each year.

As LANDFIRE’s name suggests, its products are closely associated with wildfire prevention and emergency response. The utility of the products extends far beyond those narrow purposes, however.

In Tennessee’s Cherokee National Forest, for example, LANDFIRE models produced through a partnership with The Nature Conservancy guided a 13-member task force as it worked to refine its ecological restoration and forest management goals amid years of disagreements between tribes, federal and state officials, and private landowners.

The LANDFIRE data offered neutral ground upon which to work through those disagreements, culminating in a long-term plan finalized and put into action in 2012.

LANDFIRE maintains an interactive map of applications connected to its data, datasets, and projections. The range of work is far-reaching and varied.

Researchers have used fuel layers to model fire behavior in California, canopy cover information to study climate-related habitat changes for cold water fish in Oregon, and vegetation layers to project the impact of biofuels mandates on corn production in the Midwest.

The team will continue to improve and update its products in the coming years. LANDFIRE’s Remap reference team recently collected data on 40 events from 40 different datasets, representing 600 fires across the Western United States.

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