Skip to main content
U.S. flag

An official website of the United States government

The LANDFIRE team has been busy lately, particularly with the ongoing rollout of the LANDFIRE Remap (LF Remap).

Color photo of DOI Award given to LANDFIRE team in 2018
Image of Department of Interior "Environmental Dream Team" award, presented to LANDFIRE. Leadership for the LANDFIRE program visited the USGS Earth Resources Observation and Science (EROS) Center in March of 2019 for a meeting, which included formal recognition of the EROS team for its role in earning the award. 

The next steps for that rollout and plans for communicating the effort to users, integration of other remote sensing data sources into LANDFIRE products, and a remap strategy for Alaska, Hawaii, and the Insular areas were all on the agenda at a three-day annual meeting at the U.S. Geological Survey Earth Resources Observation and Science (EROS) Center near Sioux Falls, SD recently.

The meeting was also an opportunity for the multi-state, multi-organizational program’s managers to personally congratulate the EROS team for LANDFIRE’s Environmental Achievement Award from the Department of Interior (DOI) last year.

LANDFIRE is a vegetation mapping program that turns satellite data into over 20 geospatial data layers on vegetation type, canopy height, disturbance and more across the United States. The publicly-available data layers help land managers to assess risk and respond to wildland fires, but the information is also useful for the study of topics like hydrology, carbon cycling, or ecosystem management for wildlife.

The DOI named LANDFIRE a 2017 “Environmental Dream Team” last summer. At the start of the meeting’s March 13, 2019 session, leadership from the DOI, U.S. Department of Agriculture Forest Service (USFS) and The Nature Conservancy (TNC) lauded the EROS staff whose daily work forms the bedrock of the massive mapping program through data collection, correction, and distribution.

“We may have started it, but it’s you who keeps it going and makes it work,” said Jim Smith, TNC’s LANDFIRE Project Lead, who has been with the program for more than 15 years. “It is very important that we recognize where the work is done, where the creativity is, where the productivity is, and we thank you for that.”

There was some initial skepticism about LANDFIRE when the idea first surfaced, Smith said, but its backers believed in its value. That value has since been proven on multiple fronts.

Henry Bastian, the DOI LANDFIRE Business Lead, compiled over 40 examples of the use of the program’s data to submit for consideration during the nomination process for the award. Those examples helped show how LANDFIRE fit the criteria for the category, which is meant to recognize employees, teams and partners that have attained excellence in environmental achievements that go above and beyond.  The LANDFIRE program was selected as a Dream Team because of its collaboration employing effective strategies, clear results improving operations, and provides long-term, replicable value across all lands and organizational boundaries for environmental stewardship.

For Bastian, the award was proof of something the team and LANDFIRE users have come to recognize: Nationwide remote sensing datasets play an important role in a burgeoning understanding of the Earth as an interconnected system.

“The human body’s a very complex system, and we’ve got great medical professionals who really know how to diagnose what your problem is,” Bastian said. “We’re just now beginning to look at planet   Earth, with the intricacies and complex nature of the way the Earth functions, how it operates and how fire is a part of that process.”

In the past, fire managers relied largely on field data from a variety of sources, collected over smaller areas and compiled to form fire prevention and response plans. Local land managers had and continue to have a strong sense of key areas they see on the ground each day that have risk with fire, Bastian said, but LANDFIRE coverage offers a wider, more comprehensive view beyond key spots.

Members of the LANDFIRE team at the Earth Resources Observation and Science Center
Members of the LANDFIRE team, pictured in March at the USGS Earth Resources Observation and Science (EROS) Center near Sioux Falls, SD.

“All these data help us better inform the managers to think about the lands that they are managing, the neighbors that they have, and to think about their stewardship of those lands,” he said. Questions such as, “Where should they be treating? What parts of the landscape have insect or disease outbreaks that may need attention? They can go in like a doctor and treat that area to reduce the risk.”

The LF Remap represents an update to the 15-year-old LANDFIRE basemap that will bolster confidence in the data. The effort will match the basemap to 2016 ground conditions and add new LF Remap products, including Historical Disturbance and National Vegetation Classification.

Part of LANDFIRE’s planning involves staying current on new developments and projects at EROS that might improve the data layers, according to USFS Business Lead Frank Fay. The meeting included collaboration with the Monitoring Trends in Burn Severity (MTBS) team, updates on the Landsat program, Landsat Analysis-Ready Data (ARD), Level-3 Burned Area products, and an overview of the Land Change Monitoring, Assessment, and Projection (LCMAP) project.

Fay sees potential in LCMAP, with its annual updates and near-real time monitoring capabilities, should help the LANDFIRE team in the future. 

“I’ve heard some exciting things about LCMAP,” Fay said. “It’s very promising, and I think it could really help us with our disturbance mapping and change detection needs. It’s not going to be a panacea. We’ll still need to be manipulating the data to make it useful in the LANDFIRE products, but I think we’ll be able to speed up the process. It will put us a couple of jumps ahead.”

The LANDFIRE team aims to continue making improvements, but also to make sure word of those improvements and the value of the data is spread as widely as possible. That involves newsletters, workshops and webinars, social media and reaching out directly to those who might benefit from LANDFIRE.

“There’s a robust community of users, and we try to keep them informed about changes and what’s going on, but at the same time, we’re reaching out to new communities,” Fay said.

To learn more about LANDFIRE, visit the program’s website. For an interactive map of projects using LANDFIRE data, visit the Nature Conservancy’s Web-Hosted Applications Map (WHAM!) website.

To learn more about the LF Remap and the geoarea release schedule, visit this page.







Related Content