Learn about Planscape

Planscape is a free decision support tool built to maximize wildfire resilience and ecological benefits across the State of California.

Planscape helps regional planners prioritize landscape treatments to mitigate fire risk, maximize ecological benefits and help California’s landscapes adapt to climate change

Planscape is a collaborative effort by the California Natural Resources Agency and US Forest Service, The University of California, and Spatial Informatics Group (SIG) with support from Google.org.

The Planscape Cooperative is composed of individuals from the following institutions who have come together to build a wildfire resilience tool to prevent future catastrophic wildfires.  Some of the top experts in the fields of forestry and wildland planning are contributing to Planscape and are key decision makers on both the science and data on which it’s built. Funding is provided by Google.org, CNRA, and Spatial Informatics Group.

  • University of California
  • USDA Forest Service
  • California Natural Resources Agency
  • Google.org
  • Spatial Informatics Group

Planscape is open to the public and free for anyone to use.

Planscape will focus on regional planners as the primary users (and local planners as secondary users), with the goal of helping them identify and prioritize the most valuable resilience treatments across California’s wildlands.

Planscape uses data from Regional Resource Kits, which primarily cover California. There may be data that shows for boundary states, such as around the Nevada side of Lake Tahoe, however that data may be incomplete and not provide enough information for accurate planning.

We will extend Planscape outside of California in 2024.

Planscape covers four regions in California:

Planscape uses the following ten Pillars of Resilience to organize and visualize the Regional Resource Kit elements and metrics data:

  • Air quality
  • Biodiversity conservation
  • Carbon sequestration
  • Economic diversity
  • Fire dynamics
  • Fire adapted communities
  • Forest resilience
  • Social & cultural well being
  • Water security
  • Wetland integrity

To learn more, see Framework For Resilience Tahoe-Central Sierra Initiative. Also, to learn about the metrics, see the following metric dictionaries:

The Regional Resource Kits (RRK) contain a core set of data layers that reflect management-relevant metrics for the Sierra Nevada region. These datasets and metrics are vetted by federal, state, and academic scientists. To learn more about science that supports that task force, see the Science Advisory Panel.

Planscape uses these RRK data layers to visualize map views based on the options you choose. To learn more, see Sierra Nevada, Southern California, Northern California or Central Coast Regional Resource Kits.

Planscape is a free, open source web application, built on tools and data provided by state and federal governments. Anyone can contribute to the Planscape project, which is hosted on Git Hub. 

Please refer to the Planscape User Guide for detailed information on using the application.

This beta version of Planscape gives you an opportunity to explore data sets on maps for all of California, and allows you to do planning to identify optimal treatment areas for the Sierra Nevada region. Planning capability for the other three regions will be available soon. 

You do not need an account to explore the RRK data in the map viewer. To create plans, scenarios and impact analysis, account creation is required.  Plans and scenarios can contain sensitive information, and dissemination of that information should be controlled by the planner.

Planscape is a web-based application. We recommend using it on a desktop or laptop computer. Planscape is tested on Google Chrome, Microsoft Edge, Safari and Firefox. Due to the mapping interface, Planscape is not supported on mobile devices or tablets.

Not at this time. In the future we will be expanding the sources of data that are supported. If you have data layers you would like to see supported, please email contact@planscape.org and we will forward that to the team creating the datasets.

Planscape was designed to handle extremely large landscapes, so it can easily handle planning areas in the hundreds of thousands of acres. However, note that the larger the acreage, the longer it will take for Planscape to process the data. Stand size, which is user-selectable, has a large impact on processing time. Selecting small stand size will significantly increase the processing time, however it will provide more granular information.

Planscape will work equally well on small planning areas. It’s been used on 100-500 acre runs identifying the best areas to treat to protect the WUI or plan prescribed burns.

  • A Planning Area is the area that encompasses the entire area that you would like to evaluate for treatment. This area can either be drawn on the map or defined by a shapefile that is uploaded. When you start planning, you’ll be asked how much of that planning area that you want to actually allocate for treatments, and this is the acreage that the scenario will be run within. 
  • A Scenario is your user-defined problem that you ask Planscape to solve within your defined parameters. 

  • Project Areas are the output of the scenario that is generated. There can be up to 10 project areas generated per scenario. These identify the optimal areas to treat on the landscape, as designated by the scenario that you have created.

The RRK data used in Planscape today is all 30 meter data.

The stand sizes represent the number of acres per stand.

  • Small stand size equates to 10 acres/stand
  • Medium stand size is 100 acres/stand
  • Large equates to 500 acres/stand.

Yes, the treatment cost rate is user-modifiable. The rate used in the tool is the average rate determined by the RRK team, however based on region or treatment type, that number can vary widely.  

Yes, you can create as many plans and scenarios as needed. 

It’s important to understand what has gone into the formula to derive scenario outputs. For more information, see How ForSys Supports Deriving Treatment Questions in the User Guide.

ForSys is a powerful planning tool developed by Alan Ager, Michelle Day and Cody Evers at the USFS. ForSys is used in Planscape to generate project areas from the user-defined scenarios. For users who want to create more detailed scenarios using different data, we recommend that you look into using ForSys directly.

Stand size has a high impact on the project areas. Selecting a small stand size will provide the most granular and accurate output, however for large planning areas (>50K acres) this can take a long time to run. We recommend performing the initial scenario runs with medium or large stand sizes to test the outputs, and when the variables are set, then do the run selecting the small stand size. Small stand size runs of >100K acres can take 20-30 minutes. You will note that the project area priorities will be different at different stand sizes – this is as expected, as the tool is pulling much more granular information with smaller stand sizes, which changes the output.

Planscape ONLY designates areas that do not have CSO habitat because it specifically says only treat in areas where there are no owls. Planning treatment in CSO habitat is challenging. The goal of this question is to enable the planner to identify areas where they will not encounter CSO habitat.

Try creating a bounding box or shapefile that only includes a high density of WUI risk. This may be a subset of your larger planning area. Also, look at the Wildland Urban Interface or Structure Exposure Score layers in the RRK as you plan to make sure you have enough WUI density, and only run it on a small stand size. This should generate good results.

If your scenario fails, it is likely because there are too many constraints applied. Constraints reduce the amount of available land on which the project areas can be identified. To reduce failure events, ensure that you set the maximum available acreage, limit constraints and exclusion areas. If your scenario continues to fail, eliminate all constraints and then add them back in iteratively. It can be challenging to identify which constraint is causing the failure.

It’s important to note the size of the planning area that you have created. You will see that after you have saved your planning area, at the top left of the Plan home page screen.  When drawing a polygon, it’s very easy to create a planning area that is larger in acreage than you may want or need. Additionally, when you start creating scenarios, it’s important to remember the size of your planning area, as the scenario acreage needs to be between 20 and 80% of your overall planning area. For example, if your planning area is 100,000 acres, your scenario acreage needs to be between 20,000 and 80,000 acres.


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