Welcome to the Planscape newsletter! The California Natural Resources Agency (CNRA) and the USDA Forest Service officially announced plans to build Planscape, with support from Google.org, in September 2022. Planscape is a new planning tool to maximize wildfire resilience and ecological benefits by bringing the best available state and federal data and science together to help regional planners prioritize landscape treatments. Planscape is a collaborative effort by the California Natural Resources Agency (CNRA) and the USDA Forest Service, with support from Google.org.
Read on for more detailed updates on product development for Planscape, what’s coming up next and how to get involved.
For questions, please reach out to firstname.lastname@example.org.
Planscape: From Research to Development
Planscape evolved through extensive user and expert research. The effort started off in May 2022 with a five-day design sprint with help from Google.org user research fellows, who worked with more than 50 State of California employees from more than 19 different entities to help identify the core issues facing wildland planners. From that research it was evident that one of the top issues facing planners was the ability to prioritize treatments at a regional level. Local planners deeply understand how to plan for their own areas, but planning across a 500-thousand to two-million acre scale, which is what’s needed to meet the goal of managing one-million acres of wildland annually in the state, is a bigger challenge. Planscape aims to help planners meet that challenge.
Once the design sprint and analysis of the research was completed, CNRA worked to design a tool, with support from Google.org Fellows and the California Wildfire and Forest Resilience Task Force, that would allow planners to prioritize treatments on the landscape, while optimizing for ecological co-benefits from that treatment. To do that, the team talked to numerous experts across CNRA, USFS research teams, and University of California system researchers and scientists. They learned about existing efforts ranging from CalTrees and the Forest Data Hub, through the work being done in the Tahoe-Central Sierra Initiative (TCSI) and South Yuba projects.
Several of these researchers and scientists have become part of the core Planscape team and are leading the long-term product direction. The team ultimately decided to utilize two tools that were being built by USFS researchers -- an ecological capability that identifies how treatments will impact the 10 pillars of resilience when implemented, and the ForSys tool to identify the acreage that will benefit the most from treatment and the costs of those treatments. Our proposed user interface is adapting based on feedback from the team, and from early testing.
Fortunately, work on Planscape began at the same time the first of the Regional Resource Kits (RRKs) came together. Planscape will work with all the RRKs for California as they come online, but phase one will work with the initial RRK built for the Sierra Nevada area. This provides a consistent data set, which was called out as a critical issue during the research phase.
Planscape is currently in development, with a team of Googlers providing pro bono technical support through the Google.org fellowship to support CNRA’s work on the alpha version of the tool. Alpha testing, which is early product testing done before the features are complete, began in January with a small set of testers (more details below). Beta testing will start when the tool feature is completed, and is expected to commence in Spring 2023. The team is looking for early testers, so if you are interested, please contact email@example.com.
What does Planscape look like?
In this section we will give you a glimpse of the latest designs for the Planscape tool across a few key user journeys:
Planners can specify the priorities (such as wildlife or fire hazard) and constraints (such as budget) used in generating potential project areas to treat.
The prioritization of project areas are determined by the relative importance of the defined priorities and the outcomes they aim to achieve.
Each planning area page consists of configurations created by planners, scenarios planners and others have saved, and a space for collaboration directly within Planscape.
Scenarios include project areas, potential impact on conditions, estimated costs, and shape files to download and share.
Planscape and California Wildfire and Forest Resilience Taskforce
The February California Wildfire and Forest Resilience Taskforce meeting was held in Calabasas, and Planscape was featured as part of the Science Advisory Panel’s update on data and tools. We also hosted a table at the resource fair at the event.
Early Stage Testing
Planscape will go through rigorous testing prior to launch. We have conducted extensive research to identify the right workflows and data flows that make sense, but the rubber really hits the road when we put it in the hands of users and start to gather live feedback.
First, we are reviewing some of the workflows live on video calls to ensure they make logical sense and to hear user feedback. This feedback will be incorporated prior to user testing.
Starting in late January, we put Planscape in the hands of a few end users across government departments, from CAL FIRE to the North Coast Resource Partnership (NCRP). This stage is known as alpha testing, where we release an early version of the tool to ensure that the design and flows are directionally right. We gather substantial amounts of feedback during this phase and bugs discovered are addressed swiftly.
The third and final stage of testing before launch is known as beta testing. This is where the tool is nearly production-ready but there is opportunity to resolve any issues before general release. This will likely take place in Spring 2023, and in this phase Planscape will be shared with a much broader audience.
Please contact firstname.lastname@example.org if you’re interested in contributing, collaborating or simply learning more. If you work for an organization and would like to arrange a demo for your group, we’d love to hear from you.
Thank you for your interest and partnership,
The Planscape Team
As a reminder, you’re receiving this because you are a valued stakeholder in this work between CNRA and the USDA FS. The goal of the newsletters is to provide you with relevant updates & highlights, product milestones and ways to get involved. For any questions, or if you’d like to opt in or out of this newsletter, please reach out to email@example.com.