User Guide

Learn how to use the Planscape Application

Planscape User Guide


Planscape is a wildfire resilience planning support and collaboration tool to help you plan and prioritize landscape fire resilience treatments by leveraging the latest data and climate models.

Understanding the ecosystems of very large wilderness landscapes is challenging. Planning where to place treatments on those large landscapes takes a tremendous amount of time, staff and money. Even just finding accurate data to understand the state of the land – where have there been fires in the last 10 years, what’s the mean FRID, how many acres comprise endangered species territory – can be very complex. The goal of Planscape is to provide landscape-scale planners:

  • Access to the best available data from the Regional Resource Kits
  • Ability to determine, based on the project goals, the best areas on the land to place treatments.

For landscape analysis backend, Planscape uses the ForSys planning tool, developed by the USDA Forest Service.

Using Planscape, a landscape planner can determine the most effective areas to plan treatments on a given landscape, based on their inputs and criteria. The tool makes it easy to run multiple scenarios with a variety of inputs to determine the most effective treatment areas.

Pillars of Resilience

  • 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:

Regional Resource Kits

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 allows you to view all of the RRK data in the way you want to view them. You can either draw a planning area or upload a share file to show relevant data layers underlying the view of the planning area that you have defined in the plan. Understanding the state of the land is critical to do accurate planning. Planscape makes it simple to view all the relevant data layers in your project on the maps.

You will use the RRK data to create plans and scenarios.

  • Plans – View a specific location on the map, apply different data layers to clearly identify the area that meets your treatment planning requirements and draw or upload a shape file to create the planning area. Each planning area can include multiple scenarios. 
  • Scenarios –  Scenarios allow you to identify a set of variables in your planning area that will determine the best areas to apply treatments (project areas). Planscape helps you create scenarios that identify the best places to treat for issues such as reducing the risk of high severity fire, protecting the Wildland User Interface or areas with carbon sinks. This is an iterative step, but with Planscape’s simple user interface and fast computation, it’s easy for you to build a set of scenarios that can help to hone in on the best areas for treatment.

Project Areas – Project Areas are the land areas defined by the treatment goals and constraints set in your scenario. Using ForSys, the tool auto generates up to 10 project areas per scenario, based on your treatment goals and constraints. The project areas are ranked according to how well they match your treatment goals.

Planscape Application

Planscape is a free, open source web based software application, built on tools and data provided by state and federal governments.

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.

At a high level, you will use Planscape to perform the following tasks:


Planscape tasks
When you launch Planscape, you are considered as a Guest User. You can explore the maps as a guest user. When you want to create and save plans and scenarios, you will need to create a Planscape Account.

Map Views

The map view gives you the flexibility to choose three different map layouts. You can choose to display a 1-, 2- or 4-map view on the screen by selecting one of the Map Views options.
Two maps view
Figure 1: Two maps view
Figure 2: Four maps showing four different perspectives for same area

When you are looking at a specific area in the map, you can: 

  • Visualize up to four different perspectives for the same area to explore the conditions by choosing different options
  • Click on a specific map (or the map label in the left panel) to select which map is active. Changing options in the left panel will only update the active map
  • View the legend that is specific to each map and understand the colors on the map
  • Use the plus (+) and (-) icons on the map or mouse scroll click function to zoom in and out of these maps to view your selection better
  • If you have chosen Recent Treatment Areas for a map, you can hover over a specific area for more detail.
  • Tooltips are available for more information
  • You have a transparency controller to adjust the opacity of the data layer for all conditions

Note: The zoom function is coordinated between the maps you are viewing to give you the ability to focus on a spot to get different perspectives for planning fire resilience treatments.

Using the map controls on the left pane, you can change the base map and boundary layers. 

  • Basemaps – The default option displays Roads. Select one of the other options to change the view.
  • Boundaries – The boundary layers are the predefined boundaries based on the data Planscape receives from different data sources. By default, the option is set to None. Select different options to change the map view.


Caution:  From Boundaries, if you select one of the HUC options, Prescribed burns, along with Recent Treatment Areas > Existing Projects in all four maps, the tool will have to handle very large datasets that may slow down the tool’s performance.

  • Recent Treatment Areas – This data is sourced from CalMapper. When you are in the recent treatment areas, you can view a pop-up card that shows details of the project if they are populated in the database. 
  • Current Conditions – The data ranges for these options are in different data units, which is the raw data unit for each metric type. These can only be viewed at the individual metric level.  The overall Current Condition data is represented based on data from 2021, organized by each Pillar of Resilience. You can click Current Conditions to view the data.
    • The map legend shows the color range and data units.
    • The icon layers provide more information into the data provider & source. You can click learn more to view the data dictionary of the data you are looking at. It gives how the data was collected and what the data you are viewing means.


If the map is slow to load, use one of the following two recommended options to improve loading time:

      • Turn off Existing projects, HUC-12 boundary, Prescribed Burns boundary, and Fires boundary. These layers use more computer memory, so loading time will improve with these options turned off.
      • Switch to the One Map view – the leftmost icon above the map tabs on the panel
      • Use built-in map zoon tools rather than mouse scroll to zoom.


Exploring Maps

You can use the options on the left pane to visualize different boundaries and data sets on the maps. Based on the options you choose, the application uses data sets from the RRKs to display different layers on the maps. 

  1. You can click the following icons to view respective responses as explained below:

Opens user guide & release notesquestion mark icon

information icon

Information about the specific page or dialog box you are in.


You can use the Plus to zoom in or the minus sign to zoom out of a map.

You can see the Start Planning: Draw Area or Upload Area options. Choosing either of these options will enable you to start planning treatment areas.  To draw or upload an area shape file, you will first need to create a user account.

Account Management

When you launch Planscape for the first time using the web link, Planscape considers you as a guest user.


As a guest user, you can:

  • Explore data from the Regional Resource Kits
  • View publicly available plans and scenarios*


*Accessible only via direct links.

When you create a Planscape account, you will have access to the complete capabilities of the application. 

As a logged in user with an user account, you can:

  • Create plans, scenarios and project areas
  • Test different land management options and view outcomes
  • Save planning areas
  • Download shapefiles and metadata from your plans


Creating a User Account

A Planscape user account is required for you to use the treatment area planning capabilities.

To create a user account:

1. You can use the Plus to zoom in or the minus sign to zoom out of a map.

Fig3: Link to create an account on Home page.

You can also click on Sign In on the menu bar.

2. In the Create your account page, enter your First name, Last name, a valid email address, enter a password, and repeat the same password in the Confirm password field.


Note: You must make sure the passwords in Create password and Confirm password fields match to see the blue Create Account button become visible.

3. Click Create Account. This action sends an email to the email ID you have added to the account. You will see the message below:

account confirmation
Fig4: Confirmation that the registration went successfully.

4. Check your email inbox. You should see an email similar to the one below:

account email
Fig5: Sample of validation email in your inbox.
5. Click the link to validate your email. This takes you to the Sign in to Planscape screen. Enter your email and password to log into Planscape.

Note: if you don’t receive a validation email, please check your spam folder.

After creating your user account, you can edit your information or deactivate your user account at any time.

Editing a User Account

After creating your user account, you can edit your information or deactivate your user account at any time.

To edit your user personal information:

  1. Click user user name on the top right corner of the screen to display the drop down options and click Account.
  2. In the Edit Personal Information page, edit the information you want to and click Save.

Deactivating a User Account

Planscape gives you an option to deactivate your account. Deactivating your account deactivates your plans from the application as well. Deactivation is not deleting the account. So if you ever want to reactivate your account, reach out to the Planscape team.

Planning Treatment Areas

Helping you determine the best locations for land treatment in your area of interest is the core capability of Planscape. This version of Planscape will help you to identify the best areas to treat depending on your requirements. At this time Planscape does not provide recommended treatment types. Recommended treatment type capability will be coming in future releases.

The planning capabilities of Planscape are built on top of ForSys, which is an open source tool developed by the USDA Forest Service. ForSys has been in use for years by the Forest Service to determine the most optimal treatment areas for any given project. Our goal with Planscape is to simplify the use of ForSys, and make it easier for people to get started with planning.

Creating New Plans

You can create a new plan by doing one of the following:

  • Drawing a polygon to select your area of interest
  • Uploading a shape file


When you are creating a new plan, you should first review the areas you are interested in on the map view. For example, if you are interested in running a scenario on High Severity Fire, it’s helpful to review the High Severity Fire RRK data, as well as other fire severity related data, to understand if there are viable areas for treatment within your area of interest. To review the data on the landscape:

  • Use the four map view to display different RRK data for the same area
  • Overlay different data point options in the same map to view the area from different perspectives. Overlaying past fires or current fire reduction projects on your map view can help better understand what is on your landscape.


Reviewing the data displayed in the maps helps you to identify your treatment planning area that meets the criteria you are looking to treat on the maps. 

Note: It’s helpful to think about Plans and Scenarios as folders and files. A Plan acts like a folder, in which you can place all your Scenarios for this planning area. In the top navigation, you can jump from scenarios to plans the same way you navigate file folders. In the example below, you can click on “nyack to foresthill” to go back to the scenario listing page, and “Planning Areas” to return to the Plan home page.

Planning Areas

Creating a New Plan by Drawing a Polygon

To draw a new plan:

1. In the Planning Area/New Plan page, on the left navigation pane, select the type of Basemaps, Boundaries, Recent Treatment Areas, and Regional Resource Kit Data options you want to display in the maps. Note that for planning reasons, it’s useful to show the Fires/Prescribed Burn areas so that you are not trying to plan treatment areas that have recently burned.

2. Click inside the map you want to select and draw an area and click Draw Area. If you are in a multiple map view, clicking Draw Area shows the map you selected on the right map view panel.

draw area
Fig6: Blue outline on the selected map.
3. Mouse over to the area you want to select and click. Follow the directions on the screen to complete the drawing. Note: When you have selected the area you want, click on the starting point to complete the drawing.
Drawing of a new area
Fig7: Drawing of a new area.

4. Click Done. This opens the Name your plan dialog box on the screen.

5. Give a name to the plan and click Save. This takes you to the Plan page. You can view the details of the area you have selected and add notes for your later reference.

Note: It’s important to note the size of the planning area that you have created. 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.

New plan page.
Fig8: New plan page.
You can create scenarios for your plans from this page. As you create new scenarios for your planning area, they will show up here.

Creating a New Plan by Uploading a Shapefile

In many instances you will have an existing shapefile for your area of interest. You can use your existing Shapefile to create a new plan. The Shapefiles must be a .zip file.

1.In the PlanningArea/New Plan page, inside the ma[s, click the Upload Area button. This action prompts to select a file to upload.

Upload a Shape Fil
Fig9: Upload a Shape File.

2. Browse to the file location and select your .zip file.

3. Your Shape file will be displayed in your mapview.
You can switch to the 4-map view and change the underlying map layers to better understand what is happening on the land in your planning area.

4. After reviewing the maps, select Done. This prompts you to name your planning area.

After naming and saving your planning area, you will be taken to the home page for that Plan, see Figure 8. You will be able to start creating scenarios for your planning area.

Creating a New Scenario

You can create multiple scenarios for each planning area. Each scenario can only have one treatment goal, and the variables per scenario are also very likely to change.

To create a new scenario:

1. On the Planning areas page, click one of your plans that you want to create a scenario for and click Scenarios from the lower right corner of the screen. You can also double-click on the planning area to get to the scenarios.

new scenario
Fig10: Your plans page.

2. Click New Scenario. The Planning Areas / <your plan name> / New Scenario page opens and shows the map view panel your planning area.

Create scenario
Fig11: Create scenario

In the left pane, enter a name for your scenario and select options for the following based on your treatment goals:

  • Name your Scenario –  When you name your scenario, it is recommended to include treatment type/acreage/stand size to make sure you can find specific information easily among multiple scenarios. For example: HiSev, 100k, Med to represent a scenario comprised of High Severity Fire Areas, 100K acres and Medium stand size.
  • Treatment Goals – You can select only one treatment goal per scenario. Select one treatment goal from the options.
Treatment Goals
Fig12: Treatment Goals
  • Constraints –  You can choose either Max acres to be treated or Max budget as one of your constraints per scenario.

Note: The max areas to be treated should be between 20% and 80% of your total planning area acreage.

  • The default treatment cost is $2470/acre, derived from the RRKs. You can modify it. If you know your treatment type and cost, you can enter the cost directly.
  • You can enter your maximum slope and distance from roads. Note that the more constraints that you input, the fewer acres the tool can identify for treatment. For initial scenarios, you may want to input only one of these variables.
  • You can choose from small, medium or large stand sizes. Large stand size is the default, however small stand sizes are more accurate. However, if you have a very large planning area you may want to start with Large or Medium stands and scale down from there.

Note: 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, and Large equates to 500 acres/stand.

Scenario Constraints
Fig13: Scenario Constraints
  • Exclude Areas – If you want to exclude any of the six listed areas from your scenario, select them. You can choose more than one exclusion, although the more you exclude, the less land that Planscape will be able to identify for treatment.
Exclude Areas
Fig14: Exclude Areas

4. Click Generate. This will give you the results of your query on the Results page.

  • The map shows a maximum of 10 numbered areas. These numbers on the project area listing correspond to the numbers for each project area and are listed in priority from 1-10, based on effectiveness. You can see the information for each project area – acreage, cost and ranking in terms of how effective it will be in achieving the goal you chose on the configuration page. 
  • Below the Project area listing, you’ll see a number of graphs. These correspond to the metrics that are impacted by the scenario that is run. Note the numbers on the X axis correspond to the project areas.
  • If you click on the down arrow on the right, it will show you additional metrics that can be displayed.
  • If you click on the map icon on the left, it will bring up the map of that metric layer, from the regional resource kit, overlaid by the project areas. This is useful for additional data analysis.
Scenario with results
Fig15: Scenario with results

Note: 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. We recommend running all biodiversity questions, and the “Reduce Fire Risk to the WUI” question with ‘small’ stand size selected. 

You can save the metrics output as a .csv file for input into Excel or Google Sheets for further analysis. You can also print or save the map as a shape file.

You can create multiple scenarios for your plan

To create another scenario:

1. Click either on the back arrow button in the header, or the name of your plan. This will take you back to the New Scenario page. You can see the list of all the scenarios you have created on this page.

Fig16: Options to back to create New Scenario

2. Similar to the Plan home page, you can either double click on a scenario or click the view button to bring that scenario back into view. If you have scenarios that have either failed or that you don’t need, you can also delete them from this page.

List of scenarios
Fig17: List of scenarios

Understanding Project Areas

Project areas are derived from the treatment goal and constraints such as budget, acreage, distance from roads, exclusion areas, and stand size you define for a scenario. The project areas are numbered sequentially, with #1 always being the highest ranked treatment area.
Project areas
Fig18: Project areas

In Figure 17 above, the score column lists the score derived by the calculation behind the treatment goal question, combined with the available acreage and stand size. It’s important to understand what has gone into the formula to derive these outputs. For more information, see How ForSys Supports Deriving Treatment Questions.


Different treatment goals will generate different project areas within a planning area. For example, determining where to best treat the land to prevent high severity fire may have very different results from determining where to best treat to protect spotted owl habitat. This is why it’s important to run multiple different scenarios per planning area to understand the optimal treatment areas for different needs. 


Total available acreage is another important variable in determining project areas. If you run a budget constrained scenario, it’s likely that you will have fewer project areas. For larger available acreage, it’s likely that more project areas will be identified.


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.

The graphs on the Results page in Figure 17 provide information on the secondary metrics in the scenario. The default shows four charts, however by selecting the down-arrow on the top right of the chart, additional metrics can be selected. Each of these metrics comes from the Regional Resource Kit, and more information on those metrics can be found in the data dictionaries, described above. The X-axis shows the project area, while the Y-axis provides the measurement data related to the metric. These charts can be useful in reviewing a scenario, as it may show that a scenario run to identify optimal areas to prevent high severity fire may be contraindicated for spotted owls or other endangered species. 


All of the metrics output is available in a .csv file for import into other tools. A shapefile of the project areas can also be generated.


How ForSys Supports Deriving Treatment Questions

As mentioned above, ForSys is used to calculate the project areas for the defined scenarios. ForSys calculates treatment areas based on the input of specific Primary Metrics and Thresholds. For the Treatment Goals used in Scenario Planning, Planscape has pre-determined the primary metrics and thresholds for each question. At this time, these are not user modifiable parameters. However, it is important for the planner to understand the metrics that are used in each of these questions. 

Note that the primary metrics are derived from a specific RRK data layer. The thresholds are also derived from the RRKs, however some of those parameters are operational layers that are not available to view in the map view, but can be found in the specific metrics dictionary for that region.

Treatment Question Detail for the Sierra Nevada Region

Treatment GoalDetailPrimary MetricsThreshold Layers
High Severity Fire AreasFor a selected area of interest, ForSys results will identify areas with the highest probability of high severity fireProbability of Fire Severity (High)Probability of Fire Severity (High) > 0
Reduce WUI Fire RiskFor a selected area of interest, ForSys should identify areas for fuels reduction treatment within Wildland Urban Interface (Intermix and Interface/Defense Zone).

Equal Weighting Of: 

1) Structure Exposure Score

2) Damage Potential

1) Wildland Urban Interface is = “1” or “2”  

2) Total Fuels Exposed to Fire is > “0”, 

3) Probability of Fire Severity (High) is > “0”, 

4) Structure Exposure Score is > “0”, 

5) WUI Damage Potential is greater than “Very Low”, (i.e., is equal to 2, 3, 4, or 5),  

6) Mean FRI Departure Condition Class is > 33% (i.e., = “2” or “3”)

Fuel Load Reduction OpportunitiesFor a selected area of interest, ForSys should identify areas with the highest total fuel loads and have a high probability of high severity fires.

Equal weighting of: 

1) Total Fuel Exposed to Fire  

2) Probability of Fire Severity (High)

1) Total Fuel Exposed to Fire is > 0, 

2) Probability of Fire Severity (High) is > 0 

Areas for Prescribed BurnsFor a selected area of interest, ForSys should identify where existing conditions would allow for prescribed burning with minimal pre-treatment of vegetation.

Equal weighting of:

 1) Total Fuel Exposed to Fire

2) Standing Dead and Ladder Fuels

1) Probability of Fire Severity (High) is > 0 and < 0.2, 

2) Mean FRID Condition Class is “1” (i.e., 0 to 33% departure)

Reduce Fire Risk to Riparian HabitatWhere are the priority opportunities to effectively reduce high severity fire risk to riparian habitats?

Equal weighting of: 

1) Probability of Fire Severity (High), and 

2) Total Fuel Exposed to Fire

1) Probability of Fire Severity (High) is > 0, 

2) Total Fuel Exposed to Fire is > 0, 

3) CWHR – Vegetation Type is not 1200 or 2700 or 3300 or 1100 or 1300 or 1900 or 2900 or 3800 (these codes indicate riparian habitat)

Reduce Fire Risk in Owl HabitatFor a selected area of interest, ForSys results should show areas adjacent to/along the margins of spotted owl habitats with high severity fire risk.

Equal weighting of: 

1) Probability of Fire Severity (High), 

2) Total Fuel Exposed to Fire

1) Probability of Fire Severity (High) is > 0, 

2) Total Fuel Exposed to Fire is > 0, and 

3) California Spotted Owl habitat  = 0 (areas suitable for treatment should not be associated with owl habitat and  stands closest to habitat should get priority)

Identify Wildlife Rich Areas Exposed to FireFor a selected area of interest, ForSys results should show areas that have both relatively high native wildlife species richness (fauna) and high severity fire risk

Equal weighting of: 

1) Probability of Fire Severity (High) 

2) Wildlife Species Richness 

1) Probability of Fire Severity (High) is > 0 

2) Wildlife Species Richness is > 0

Threatened/Endangered Species Exposed to FireFor a selected area of interest, ForSys results should show areas that have both relatively high threatened/ endangered species richness (fauna) and high severity fire risk

Equal weighting of:

1) Probability of Fire Severity (High) 

2) Threatened/Endangered Vertebrate Species Richness

1) Probability of Fire Severity (High) is > 0, and 

2) Threatened/Endangered Vertebrate Species Richness is > 0

Areas with Long Term Carbon StorageFor a selected area of interest, ForSys results should show areas with relatively elevated tree biomass carbon Aboveground Live Tree CarbonAboveground Live Tree Carbon > 0 Mg C/ha
Reduce Fire Risk in Carbon SinksWhat areas support elevated above ground carbon and could be managed to reduce exposure to high severity fire events?

Equal Weighting of:

1) Probability of Fire Severity (High)

2) Aboveground Live Tree Carbon 

1) Probability of Fire Severity (High) > 0, 

2) Aboveground Live Tree Carbon > 0 Mg C/ha

In future versions of Planscape, we will enable users to choose their own variables directly. That capability is not available at this time.


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