SACRAMENTO – California Natural Resources Agency (CNRA) and the USDA Forest Service, along with support from Google.org, Google’s philanthropic arm, has developed Planscape – a new wildfire resilience planning tool that uses state and federal resilience data to create user-friendly models that will be easily accessible to land planners. A demonstration of Planscape was released today at the California Wildfire & Forest Resilience Task Force meeting.

Wildfire Resiliency Task Force. Photo YubaNet

This new tool will ensure that state, federal and private forest planners have current and sophisticated data at their fingertips allowing them to plan landscape-scale projects in a way that improves wildfire safety while enhancing biodiversity, watershed health, carbon storage and providing other ecological benefits. With a decision support and workflow guide, planners – along with foresters and the public – will have access to the leading forest ecology climate data and scientific models that will make it easier to determine where treatments (such as tree thinning, undergrowth clearing or other action) will be most effective and when and how to treat those areas.

In addition to helping planners, Planscape supports the significant investments that California has made in wildfire resilience:

  • California recently secured $2.8 billion in funding over three years, including a $25 million investment in better spatial data, ground data and models. Last year’s portion of this investment resulted in 960 new wildfire resilience projects implemented by hundreds of partners throughout the State. This new tool will help ensure that future projects can easily and strategically use the new investments in science and data to deliver multiple ecological and climate benefits, in addition to wildfire safety.
  • California, along with the USDA Forest Service, has committed to treat at least one million acres per year by 2025. This tool will help ensure those million acres are placed to maximize climate resilience.

“Californians are threatened by worsening wildfires driven by an overheated, unstable climate,” said California Secretary for Natural Resources Wade Crowfoot. “Planscape will leverage science and data to help deliver wildfire resilience projects that protect our communities and natural places.”

Google.org is providing CNRA with a team of Google.org Fellows – Google researchers, designers, product managers, software engineers and other Google employees who are working pro bono with scientists from across the University of California system, the USDA Forest Service, CAL FIRE and CNRA agencies to build the web-based tool.

It is expected that Planscape will be fully functional in early 2023 and will allow planners to define and evaluate landscape scale projects based on climate change models, hundreds of statewide data layers, and a framework employed in the Tahoe Basin that considers 10 key areas of impact, including water security, a community’s ability to adapt to fire, cultural well-being and economic diversity.

“We’re grateful for the opportunity to work with the State of California to help create this open-source tool to assist in accelerating the treatment of one million acres of landscape each year,” said Google Chief Sustainability Officer Kate Brandt. “We believe the combination of increasing wildfire resilience and optimizing co-benefits – like protecting endangered species, saving our giant trees and improving watershed health – are essential to preserving our home state and global climate.”

To reduce the severity and impact of fires in the future, a new level of coordination is required for landscape scale planning and investment in resilience. The collaboration is taking data and modeling tools, traditionally accessed by only a handful of expert academics and researchers, and will make the information broadly available.

The California Natural Resources Agency is on a mission to restore, protect and manage California’s natural, historical and cultural resources.

Google.org, Google’s philanthropy, supports nonprofits that address humanitarian issues and apply scalable, data-driven innovation to solving the world’s biggest challenges. We accelerate their progress by connecting them with a unique blend of support that includes funding, products, and technical expertise from Google volunteers. We engage with these believers-turned-doers who make a significant impact on the communities they represent, and whose work has the potential to produce meaningful change. We want a world that works for everyone—and we believe technology and innovation can move the needle.