In some ways, the name LANDFIRE can be misleading. The suite of tools, models and digital map layers -- the first complete, nationally consistent collection of resources with an ecological foundation -- are valuable resources for those working on fuels and fire-related land management issues, scenario planning and budgeting, of course. However, LANDFIRE models and spatial layers have been used in numerous and varied conservation applications that extend way "beyond fire," as we like to say.  

Site Resources

Because LANDFIRE has been around since 2004, keeping track of the thousands of ways our data and tools are being used is impossible.  

This page: occasionally, we interview LANDFIRE users and invite them to tell us about their work -- a few of those interviews follow. Our TNC team also offers a  few reports and case studies that we think you'll be interested in. 

In the right column on this page, "Related Resources," click on links to the Web-Hosted Application Map and the WHAM! Apps pdf - they point you to 131 LANDFIRE applications that you can review via interactive map and a PDF table of the stories that are called out on the WHAM!

Next page: Summary Stories, a selection of thumbnail reports that are developed according to a short template that include citations, abstracts, maps, and photos.


Featured Application


Keeping fuel data current over time is a continual challenge for wildland fire managers. Natural events like wildfires and hurricanes, and human activities such as forest thinning, prescribed fire, and development constantly change the landscape and quickly render fuel data out of date.

Biannually, LF provides a data safety net by producing updated all-lands fuels products for the U.S.; however, those data are two to three years old when they are delivered. Further, while they provide a good starting point, the products are designed for national and regional level application -- local review and calibration is recommended to ensure that the data are suitable for smaller landscapes.
In 2015, the South Central Idaho Fire Planning Unit (FPU) needed current data after four major fires burned 178,000 acres in 2013. However, the 2013 events would not be reflected before the circa 2014 version was completed and made available in 2017. How did the area fire staff, working with a team of LF and USFS colleagues, bring the 2012 fuel data current to 2015 for the FPU? And, what process did they use to calibrate fire behavior fuel models to better fit local conditions? 

Read the article pdf by Kori Blankenship, Anthony Beauchaine, and Don Helmbrecht.

   Featured Interviews

Connecting Users and Mappers in Northeastern U.S.

Megan Sebasky, Northeast Region's (USFS Region 9) LF Coordinator, has been with the Wsconsin DNR since March of 2017. Prior to this position, she was an environmental consultant on a wide variety of topics (see Megan's website). Her passion for ecology and GIS led to a focus on habitat modeling, among other geospatial and ecological research challenges, including current projects with spatial fire ecology. During the period of her LF contract, Megan will be putting her combination of GIS and communications skills to good use. Read the interview.

SBcolor.jpg Landscape-scale AnalysisEssential to Success of Watershed Projects

Steve Bassett is a Spatial Analyst and GIS Program Manager for The Nature Conservancy in Santa Fe, NM, where he has been for six years. He previously worked for the National Park Service in Yellowstone. Steve's work covers a variety of conservation projects ranging from optimizing investment in water source protection to measuring changes in aquatic habitats following the construction of dams.

Many of his current projects support the Rio Grande Water Fund, a cross-boundary multi-stakeholder collaborative that is rapidly scaling up the pace and scale of forest restoration and wildfire risk reduction in the Rio Grande Basin in New Mexico and Colorado. Read the story.


LANDFIRE & GAP: Partnership Addresses Challenges of Land Cover Mapping

Alexa cropped and resized.jpgAlexa McKerrow, an ecologist and remote sensing analyst, has been with the U.S. Geological Society (USGS) National Gap Analysis Program (GAP) since the mid-1990s. She started her USGS career in 2008 and now leads a team of geographic information specialists involved in a variety of projects for the Core Science Analytics and Synthesis Program. Alexa is on the LANDFIRE Remap Strategy Team, researching improvements in land cover mapping methodology. Click on the title or here to read about the ways LANDFIRE and GAP work together.

Evaluating the US Forest Service Hazardous Fuels Treatment Program


USFS Fire Ecologist Nicole Vaillant started using LANDFIRE products when in grad school, working on her Ph.D. at Berkeley. And she's still at it -- an active, prolific writer and researcher, and experienced field practitioner. 

Her current research interests include characterizing fire behavior at multiple scales, burn severity patterns, fuel treatment effectiveness, and wildfire risk analysis. She is also involved with technical transfer and training for fuel management tools, specifically ArcFuels and the Interagency Fuel Treatment Decision Support System (IFTDSS). Nicole holds a Ph.D. from University of California, Berkeley, in Environmental Science Policy and Management.

Our interview touches on the why and how of her work using LANDFIRE, including an article in the March 2017 Journal of Forestry where she and coauthor Elizabeth Reinhardt examine the USFS's Hazardous Fuels Treatment Program and ask whether existing treatments do enough to promote resiliency or reduce hazards. Read about that report and more in our LF interview with Nicole. Contact Nicole Vaillant.


Jen Costanza is a landscape ecologist with research interests in the ecological effects of global change, land change modeling and landscape conservation. Her Ph.D. in ecology was awarded from the University of North Carolina at Chapel Hill; she is a Research Assistant Professor at North Carolina State University.

Jen’s current research involves response to changes in climate, disturbances, land use and land management. She is working to produce future projections of forest conditions for the Forest Service’s Resources Planning Act (RPA) Assessment. Additional research spans landscape ecology and conservation biology, including modeling wildlife habitat connectivity in the southeastern U.S., simulating landscape dynamics under scenarios of bioenergy production in North Carolina, and mapping threats to ecosystems in the North American Coastal Plain – the world’s newest global biodiversity hotspot.

 Maps, Models, Metrics: Applied Conservation’s Greg Low

Greg Low1.jpg

Greg Low and partner Henry Little established Applied Conservation LLC in 2011. The company provides consulting and facilitation services to public agencies, nonprofit conservation organizations, private landowners, and other partners in conservation action planning, forecasting, implementation, environmental dashboards, and organizational development in landscapes ranging from 50,000 to over 1,000,000 acres.

Applied Conservation uses LANDFIRE products as a foundation for the process known as Landscape Conservation Forecasting. This interview reveals the many ways of working and methods for analysis that LANDFIRE supports.              

Team Picks  

Jim photoJim Smith, LANDFIRE Project Lead

Scientists in North Carolina produced two interesting papers that utilized LANDFIRE Program products. In Bioenergy Production and Forest Landscape Change in the Southeastern United States, Jen Costanza, Bob Abt, Alexa McKerrow and Jaime Collazo incorporated LANDFIRE models and spatial data into an simulation analysis of the impact of five different wood production scenarios on landscape change in the Southeastern United states between 2010 and 2050. 

Projected gains and losses of wildlife habitat from bioenergy-induced landscape change. Led by Nathan Tarr and Matthew Rubino, authors examined the impact of the different wood production scenarios on wildlife habit by using LANDFIRE Succession Class datasets.

Data Application blogs -- Check out this six-part series! "More Than a Catchy Number," "Overall Agreement," "Contingency Table/Error Matrix," "Understanding the Usability of a Map," "Local vs. Non-local Accuracy," and "LANDFIRE Agreement Results,"  in which I examine spatial data with a keen eye and offer important insight and advice. Think wine, cross-country road trips, map disagreement, getting along with each other and more.
Kori Blankenship, Fire Ecologist
Kori May 2014 dodged.jpgSince late 2015, our team has worked hard on a the LANDFIRE Biophysical Settings Models and Descriptions Review. That’s why I was particularly interested in a recent article in the journal Fire Ecology where the authors used these models.

In the article Corroborating Evidence of a Pre-Euro-American Low- to Moderate-Severity Fire Regime in Yellow Pine-Mixed Conifer Forests of the Sierra Nevada, California, USA, Miller and Safford show how they used Mediterranean California Dry-Mesic Mixed Conifer Forest and Woodland state-and-transition model to provide supporting evidence that pre-settlement dry forests in the California Sierra Nevada were more open and typically burned with less high severity fire than these same forests today. They used the LANDFIRE represent pre-settlement yellow-pine mixed conifer forest within the study area.

That model estimates historical fire severity proportions of 7% high, 30% moderate and 63% low severity fire. A modern estimate of fire severity proportions from a recent study (Malleck et al. 2013) indicated that recent fires have burned with 30% high, 22% moderate and 48% low severity fire. By approximating these proportions of fire severity in the state-and-transition model, the authors were able to compare how forest conditions changed.

Results showed that the amount of late development forest was about 45% under the pre-settlement fire regime compared to 13% under the hypothetical/modern fire regime. They also found 5.6 times more open than closed canopy forest under the pre-settlement versus the modern fire regime. Along with additional lines of evidence including a comparison of early twentieth century and more recent vegetation maps, the authors conclude that the fire regime of yellow-pine mixed conifer forest was characterized by low-mixed severity fires.

Jeannie Patton, Communications Lead 
Being a born and raised westerner (Colorado), I've always been interested in the iconic coyote -- trickster, wisdom-carrier, fool. I was interested, therefore, to see a LANDFIRE-related coyote study, Environmental factors influencing the occurrence of coyotes and conflicts in urban areas, by Posessel, Gese and Young. The authors conducted a survey of 105 urban areas for which they requested information about coyotes and human-coyote conflicts. The results were analyzed (data on human population size, geographic region, land cover, housing density, and precipitation) by using LANDFIRE data for the land cover analysis.
I've said it before, but the application story about Cherokee National Forest Collaborative  is a case study of challenges overcome, successful collaboration,  and a plan for restoration that brought a disparate group of stake-holders together in unprecedented -- some would say miraculous -- cooperation. 
Randy Swaty, Ecologist
Randy winter.jpgHaley Michael, Ron Deckert, Catherine Gehring and I recently published a paper that's worth your attention, Mapping the potential mycorrhizal associations of the conterminous United States of America. Mycorrhizae are symbiotic relationships between soil fungi and many plants; they are key to ecosystem function - and even survival - for some plants. Using literature, we assigned a mycorrhizal label to each of the 1-8 dominant plants that occur in each Biophysical Setting description. We consolidated those labels to attribute each BpS with a mycorrhizal community to generate the maps in the paper. Without the LANDFIRE BpS descriptions and spatial data this research would not have been possible.
As the wildfire season winds down for at least parts of the United States (as of this writing, fires still burned in CA, ID, AZ, NC and AL/GA border), I think of risks to lives and property, suppression costs and how to reduce risk. A robust paper  by Joe Scott et al. Examining alternative fuel management strategies and the relative contribution of National Forest System land to wildfire risk to adjacent homes – A pilot assessment on the Sierra National Forest, California, USA, uses the LANDFIRE Landscape Files (includes terrain, tree canopy and surface fuels data), simulation modeling and risk analysis to explore the potential risk abatement of fuels treatments. I will point to one key message: landscape-scale assessments enabled by LANDFIRE and other large datasets are key to prioritizing fuel treatment strategies. 
Food storage and LANDFIRE? Not your typical coupling, but recently Howey and Frederick (2016) published a paper, Immovable food storage facilities, knowledge, and landscape in non-sedentary societies: Perspectives from northern Michigan that does just that. Using the LANDFIRE Biophysical Settings (BpSs) data as context, the authors explored late pre-contact (ca. AD 1000/110) food storage by hunter-gatherer societies in northern Michigan.
William Elliot and colleagues presented a paper, Combining Fire and Erosion Modeling to Target Forest Management Activities, that uses fire and erosion modeling to target forest restoration. Working in California, authors estimated fire risk and post-fire erosion from a target watershed.  Erosion was mapped per hillslope, providing guidance for where restoration could be focused.  It is an elegant approach that used LANDFIRE fuels, Existing Vegetation Type and Existing Vegetation Cover data. 
Kim Hall photo Kim Hall, Climate Change Ecologist
LANDFIRE vegetation cover maps play an important supporting role in a recent evaluation of how avian malaria and climate change may interact to further reduce future ranges for Hawaiian forest birds. In a study by Fortini et al. (USGS, USFWS), LANDFIRE EVT were used to evaluate habitat availability under future climate conditions within ranges estimated from species distribution models.
Bet-hedging dry-forest resilience to climate-change threats in the western USA based on historical forest structure. My work focuses on evaluating climate change impacts, and updating conservation strategies to reduce climate-related risks.  So, I was particularly interested in a recent paper by Baker and Williams in Frontiers in Ecology and Evolution (2015) that draws upon LANDFIRE maps of ponderosa pine and dry mixed conifer forest. This paper provides interesting food for thought related to the role of small trees in conferring resilience to fire, insects, and drought. Thinking through all of these interactions can help us update forest management for climate change.

In another avian application, Gnass Giese et al. used LANDFIRE EVT to evaluate whether bird distributions across a wide range of sites in the Great Lakes region show a “human footprint.” The team demonstrates how bird survey data and land use information can be crafted into a bird-based index of ecological condition for the region, noting that while other datasets mapped vegetation at finer resolution. 
Sarah Hagen, Spatial Analyst
To quantify and identify priority areas for prescribed fire, the Wisconsin Fire Needs Assessment combines the information for fire dependent vegetation with additional spatial data sets to assess the benefits, effort, and challenges associated with using prescribed fire. LF data were used because they include both public and private lands; they are publicly available, making the methods easy to replicate for other states; and the assessment can be updated with future versions of LF data. Vegetation descriptions that included historical mean fire return intervals were an important part of the analysis.
The Illinois Fire Council developed the state's fire needs assessment to promote and expand the use of prescribed fire. This is the first systematic report in Illinois to document the number of acres burned annually and identify how many need to burn in order to promote ecosystem health. It provides a call to action for land managers, legislators and the general public. Products used: BpS, EVT, and MFRI were foundational resources. Watch the webinar video.
I'm reading Richard Manning's 1997 book Grassland: The History, Biology, Politics and Promise of the American Prairie, and recommend it, especially if you haven't thought about grasslands the way that I do -- as THE coolest ecosystems. One of the many quotes that speak to me is this: "Once covered with tall-grass prairie and a few fingers of oak savannahs, [Iowa] now holds less than one half of one percent of its original habitat. By comparison, the amount of old-growth forest remaining in the Pacific Northwest--the region where our most vociferous environmental battles rage--makes that region positively pristine." [LANDFIRE note: read Sarah's blog No Place Else I'd Rather Be for more context.]




 Related Resources