Harnessing Technology Improves Conservation Effectiveness

SGI scientist Brady Allred explains how free, online landscape-level data informs conservation decisions for sage grouse.March 20, 2018

Research scientist Brady Allred, left, explains how the SGI Web App informs conservation planning for wildlife and working lands across the western U.S. 

New Science to Solutions shows how the SGI Web App uses emerging science and technology to increase conservation effectiveness by matching the right practices to the right places on working lands

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Working Lands for Wildlife and the Sage Grouse Initiative, led by USDA’s Natural Resources Conservation Service, developed an Interactive Web Application to bolster conservation outcomes across the American West.This innovative new technology empowers public agencies and non-governmental partners to target ranchland sustainability practices and reduce threats to at-risk wildlife.

The free online mapping tool allows practitioners to easily visualize, download, and interact with resource data across the vast sagebrush sea. Powered by Google Earth Engine, the Web App uses the latest satellite imagery to perform instantaneous custom analyses, letting users quickly identify, compare, and evaluate opportunities for ecosystem restoration or threat-reduction.

“This new technology puts data directly into the hands of the people working on the ground. It helps prioritize conservation planning by providing a birds-eye view of the western landscape,” says Brady Allred, SGI research scientist.

The tool shows both a landscape-level view across ownership boundaries, as well as site-specific data for individual parcels. Data layers will be continually added to the Web App, which currently provide valuable habitat information such as encroachment by conifers, resistance to invasive weeds and wildfires, and changes in wet meadow and riparian habitat over time.

Collectively, the Web App increases conservation effectiveness by putting a landscape context around local projects, and by matching the right practices to the right places.

This new Science to Solutions explains how emerging technologies — made possible by partnerships between Silicon Valley, NRCS, and BLM — are accelerating grazing land conservation and creating on-the-ground efficiencies for landowners and resource managers. It also explains how to use the Web App and its resource layers.

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The Sage Grouse Initiative is a partnership-based, science-driven effort that uses voluntary incentives to proactively conserve America’s western rangelands, wildlife, and rural way of life. This initiative is part of Working Lands For Wildlife, which is led by USDA’s Natural Resources Conservation Service.