Aerial view of cottonwood forests along the Truckee River
McCarran Ranch Aerial view of cottonwood forests along the Truckee River at McCarran Ranch © Chip Carroon

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The Nature Conservancy in Nevada Awarded $750,000 Grant from Bretzlaff Foundation

New funding will help TNC advance its land management science to include sociopolitical factors that often stand between land management planning and management actions.

The Nature Conservancy in Nevada (TNC) developed an innovative modeling system to guide and improve land management actions, like ecosystem restoration, that has helped land managers improve their return on investment. A $750,000 grant from the Bretzlaff Foundation, a family foundation based in Nevada, will advance the chapter’s Landscape Conservation Forecasting™ system and integrate its predictive vegetation modeling with sociopolitical modeling. The advancements to the LCF™ system will be focused on reducing the costs of completing studies, and the incorporation of sociopolitical modeling, an advancement that is the first of its kind, will be designed to help land managers navigate the obstacles that often stand between land management planning and management actions.

TNC already employed the LCF system on 390,000 acres of the Truckee River watershed to assess the risk of high intensity wildfires, the impacts of those wildfires on water resources, and where forest treatments would be most effective in reducing the risk of catastrophic wildfires, while also protecting water resources important to people and nature. While this same part of the Truckee River watershed will serve as the case study area for these new advancements, the intent is to produce a tool that can help navigate to improved land management in landscapes across the Sierra, the state of Nevada, and beyond.

“What makes this project unique and transformative is that the Bretzlaff Foundation funding will allow the addition of a sociopolitical model that will ‘communicate on-the-fly’ to change the forest and wetland management implementation behavior of the core spatial predictive vegetation models currently used by The Nature Conservancy,” said Louis Provencher, TNC in Nevada's Director of Conservation Ecology. “Because we focus on maintaining healthy land and water for people as well as animals, we will be the first to measure motivational and political factors emerging from residential and business communities affecting forest management close and far away from cities and smaller towns.”

“We are proud to support The Nature Conservancy’s vision of a resilient northern Sierra Nevada landscape: one that has fewer negative socioeconomic impacts from large wildfires, and healthy forests for people and nature, and we’re excited that the advancements developed here could have impacts not only across the Sierra Nevada, but the Intermountain West and beyond,” said Mike Melarkey, Trustee at the Bretzlaff Foundation.

“LCF has already proved very useful in working with public and private land managers to get the most bang for their land management bucks and achieving their management goals,” said Mickey Hazelwood, TNC in Nevada's Eastern Sierra Nevada Program Manager. “The prospect of advancing this tool to answer more of the questions that are important to land managers and making it more affordable and accessible is very exciting.”

The Nevada chapter will be able to achieve several ecological modeling innovations as the project grows from the Truckee River watershed to a tool that can be used across the state:

  • Clustering ecological systems while preserving underlying spatial soil productivity patterns to reduce modeling complexity and remote sensing cost;
  • Modeling creeks and rivers at different fine spatial scales than other systems to better capture and manage the fish and amphibian habitat characteristics of these narrow linear systems;
  • Measuring habitat quality for focal at-risk fish and mammals;
  • Measuring water sustainability through forest and snow management, which affects wet meadows and waterways;
  • Measuring net carbon sequestration in restored forests and wet systems.

The Nature Conservancy is a global conservation organization dedicated to conserving the lands and waters on which all life depends. Guided by science, we create innovative, on-the-ground solutions to our world's toughest challenges so that nature and people can thrive together. We are tackling climate change, conserving lands, waters and oceans at an unprecedented scale, providing food and water sustainably and helping make cities more sustainable. Working in 72 countries and territories: 38 by direct conservation impact and 34 through partners, we use a collaborative approach that engages local communities, governments, the private sector, and other partners. To learn more, visit www.nature.org or follow @nature_press on Twitter.