Headshot, Laura Crane
Laura Crane Headshot, Laura Crane © TNC

Our People

Laura Crane

Director of the Land Networks Program for The Nature Conservancy’s California Program

Los Angeles, CA

  • Area of Expertise

    Climate and Energy Policy, Conservation Strategy, Land Use Policy, Ecosystem Services

Biography

Laura is the Director of the Land Networks Program for The Nature Conservancy’s California Chapter. She leads a team of conservation practitioners who design and execute innovative strategies to protect a resilient network of conservation areas across California. As climate change and population growth drive land use change—both for people and nature— the Land Networks Program team works to bolster California’s protected areas, restore connectivity in important wildlife linkages, and find nature-based solutions for communities facing impacts from increasingly intense natural hazards. Prior to taking this position, Laura was the Director of the Conservancy’s California Renewable Energy Initiative. In this role, she provided scientific analyses and collaborated with government, industry and other environmental groups to develop solutions for preserving and protecting unique biodiversity and ecosystem function while facilitating development of clean energy.

Before joining the Conservancy, Laura was an environmental and resource management consultant, developing soil, river and groundwater restoration plans for contaminated Superfund sites. She holds a B.A. in environmental studies from the University of California, Santa Barbara.

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Publications

Visit Science for Conservation for a full list.

Mojave Desert Ecoregional Assessment

John M. Randall, Sophie S. Parker, James Moore, Brian Cohen, Laura Crane, Bill Christian, Dick Cameron, Jason B. Mackenzie, Kirk Klausmeyer, Scott Morrison

Regional conservation planning is critical to inform land and resource use decisions. The Mojave Desert Ecoregional Assessment represents an important advance in such planning, because of how its output  characterized not just areas of high conservation value, but how conservation values distributed and graded across the whole of the planning area. The resulting maps better support land use decisions, such as how best to site and mitigate the impacts of renewable energy development.

Identification of potentially suitable habitat for strategic land retirement and restoration in the San Joaquin Desert

H. Scott Butterfield, Rodd Kelsey, Abigail Hart, Tanushree Biswas, Mark Kramer, Dick Cameron, Laura Crane, Erica Brand

California's Sustainable Groundwater Management Act (SGMA) established a framework for sustainable, local groundwater management. SGMA requires groundwater-dependent regions to halt overdraft and bring basins into balanced levels of pumping and recharge. As a result, agricultural land retirement is on the rise in the San Joaquin Valley, California’s largest agricultural region and home to the state's highest concentration of threatened and endangered species. In this assessment, The Nature Conservancy introduces the concept of strategic land retirement and restoration, an approach which seeks to help recover San Joaquin Valley threatened and endangered species by restoring agricultural land that is suitable as habitat and under threat of retirement. The authors identify 2.5 million acres of current agricultural lands that have high potential for restoration, 14% of which was fallowed at least once during the most recent drought. 

Integrating Land Conservation and Renewable Energy Goals in CA: A study of costs and impacts using the optimal renewable energy build-out model

The Nature Conservancy: Erica Brand, Laura Crane, Dick Cameron, Energy and Environmental Economics: Grace C. Wu, Nick Schlag

Integrating ecological data into long-term energy planning is critical to meet both California’s long term energy and conservation goals. This report assesses the potential trade-offs associated with renewable energy build-out by evaluating the land and water use implications and cost of a range of potential 2030 renewable energy scenarios. In addition, the Executive Summary provides an overview of the analysis, key findings and policy recommendations from The Nature Conservancy. 

Solar Energy Development and Regional Conservation Planning

D.R. Cameron, L. Crane, S.S. Parker, J.M. Randall

This book chapter discusses how California's greenhouse gas emission reduction goals spurred solar development in the Mojave Desert—development that could have negative impacts if poorly sited. The authors discuss their wall-to-wall assessment of conservation values across the 32-million-acre Mojave Desert, and their estimation of how much solar energy could be developed on previously-disturbed lands. These analyses demonstrated that California could meet energy production goals without developing areas most important for biodiversity. The authors discuss how their findings influenced the permanent protection of 6.5 million acres through California’s Desert Renewable Energy Conservation Plan.

Solar Energy Development in the Western Mojave Desert

Cameron, D., S. Parker, B. Cohen, J. Randall, B. Christian, J. Moore, L. Crane, S. A. Morrison

Industrial-scale renewable energy generation facilities can have sizable footprints and therefore significant impact on the conservation values of a landscape. This assessment focused on a region experiencing intense development pressure, the western Mojave Desert, to highlight how facilities could be sited to have lower impact on the conservation values of the broader landscape. Further, the authors describe a comprehensive mitigation program that could potentially produce a net improvement to the conservation status of species and habitats.

Western San Joaquin Valley Least Conflict Solar Energy Assessment

Butterfield, H.S., D. Cameron, E. Brand, M. Webb, E. Forsburg, M. Kramer, E. O’Donoghue, L. Crane

A Conservancy analysis of the western Mojave Desert identified where human activities had degraded the conservation value of lands making them potentially low impact locations for development of solar facilities. In this assessment authors applied that same approach in the Western San Joaquin Valley—an area with high value conservation resources but also extensive cropland—to incorporate agricultural conservation values into the evaluation of potential conflicts with energy development and ultimately help shape the long-term energy development future in the region.