Vibrant Planet Launches First-of-Its-Kind Land Management Tool To Help Prevent Catastrophic Wildfires in Lake Tahoe Basin and Beyond

September 22, 2021
5 min read
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“Land Tender” Delivers Fire Prevention, Forest Health Projects in Months Not Years, Transforming Decades-Old Paper Process into Dynamic, Cloud-Based System

SACRAMENTO, Calif. – As millions of acres smolder and smoke billows across America, Vibrant Planet today launched its first application – called Land Tender™ – which catapults the country’s decades-old, paper-based land management system into the Cloud and provides land managers with the integrated, dynamic, high-resolution data and modeling they need to make more agile and informed decisions. With this new tool, land managers can plan, prioritize, and execute fire prevention and forest health projects in months rather than years, including thinning hazardous timber, clearing fuels from roadsides, and conducting prescribed burns.

“We are facing concurrent, intertwined climate, wildfire, biodiversity, water, and health crises that cross jurisdictions and affect each and every one of us. Our future depends on how quickly we adapt, cooperate, and take action. With Land Tender, we can harness the best science, technology, and data to protect and restore forests, and mitigate risk, quickly and at scale,” said Vibrant Planet CEO and Land Tender’s founder Allison Wolff, an early leader at Netflix and advisor to eBay, Google, Facebook, Drawdown, Conservation International, and other organizations on vision, strategy, culture change, and user-experience design over the past two decades. 

With the 220,000-acre Caldor Fire still burning, Land Tender’s first partnership is a critical and timely initiative with the nonprofit Tahoe Fund, and the California Tahoe Conservancy to help  land managers and owners, fire districts, scientists, local NGOs, and other stakeholders update Lake Tahoe’s community wildfire protection and forest health plan for the entirety of the lake’s 500-square-mile watershed basin. 

“The Caldor Fire made it into the Lake Tahoe Basin and we narrowly averted catastrophe, in part because of proactive fire prevention and forest health projects,” said Tahoe Fund CEO Amy Berry. “Land Tender is a unique tool that can help communities like ours dramatically speed up the timeline of critical forest management projects – some of which have previously taken up to 10 years to plan and execute. This is exactly the type of project we started our ‘Smartest Forest Fund’ to help accomplish.”

Today’s intense, destructive, and costly wildfires are driven by unnaturally dense forests, expanded development in fire-prone areas, and climate change, which has dried out vegetation, extended the fire season, and led to pest outbreaks that have killed millions of trees across the western U.S. Last year, in California alone, wildfires resulted in:

  • $3-4 trillion in ecosystem benefit losses at today’s market valuation, including carbon emissions and loss of carbon sequestration, water quality, recreation, and wood products;
  • $63 billion in public health impacts; 
  • $2.3 billion in fire suppression costs; and
  • 20 years of lost profitability for the insurance industry due to structure damage and loss.

Remarkably, six of the state’s seven largest wildfires on record burned in just the past 12 months. 

“For thousands of years, forests in the West looked much different than they do today and just 150 years ago, conservationists wrote about easily riding horses through the open forests, common in much of the Sierra Nevada,” said U.S. Forest Service Research Ecologist Dr. Malcolm North. “Since then, we’ve harvested many of the big, old trees, suppressed the sort of fire these landscapes need to stay healthy, and released forest carbon that contributes to climate warming. We will lose millions of acres of forest and suffer devastating impacts to communities, air quality, and water supply if we don’t tend forests back to health in the next decade.” 

Even as these cross-jurisdictional fire threats and costs escalate, land management planning and practices have remained largely the same – siloed, paper-based, and slow – with projects often taking up to 10 years to plan and execute. As governments and land managers scramble to adapt, Land Tender is uniquely positioned to catalyze a swift shift to proactive, technology-driven land management, backed by the best data and science, to reduce wildfire risks, restore watersheds, and protect habitat and biodiversity. 

With Land Tender, parties across jurisdictions can collaborate and rapidly assess the current resilience of, and risk to, landscapes and communities, create and compare treatment scenarios at any scale, and make informed, ready-to-implement decisions in near real-time. This planning is done by utilizing high-resolution, three-dimensional, datasets – including satellite imagery and aerial Light Detection and Ranging (LiDAR) technology – coupled with best-in-class infrastructure data to identify key inputs such as homes and utility infrastructure. Remote sensing, machine learning, and artificial intelligence also enable land managers to continuously monitor project progress, shift priorities and resources based on evolving conditions and threats, and gain insights on effective land management techniques to build community and wildland resilience.  

Land Tender was designed with significant input from land managers, emergency responders, scientists, NGOs, and local and regional policy and decision makers, and built by a team of seasoned technology, ecology, and forest management leaders. The team’s decades of collective experience encompass the U.S. Forest Service, Lyft, Netflix, Guidewire, Facebook, and Omidyar Network. This tool was first piloted in 2019 in collaboration with the North Yuba Forest Partnership to help bolster the resilience of a 275,000-acre, fire-prone watershed that serves as a key tributary to the Sacramento River Delta. The project, financed by Blue Forest’s Forest Resilience Bond, helped multiple landowners and collaborators assess current conditions and risks, define forest health and community protection objectives, and develop science- and data-informed treatment plans that the Yuba Water Agency and other funders could support. Land Tender will generate a continuous pipeline of forest health and wildfire mitigation projects across the western U.S., supporting the development of a workforce of thousands to safeguard communities and restore western landscapes.

Land Tender is the first product launched by Vibrant Planet, a public benefit corporation and 501(c)(3) Data Commons focused on adaptive planning and market-based solutions for restoring the biosphere and the climate, with $8 million in initial venture capital and philanthropic support.

“There is an enormous investment opportunity to address climate mitigation and resilience at the same time,” said Mike Jackson, General Partner at Earthshot Ventures, an investor in Vibrant Planet. “Reducing emissions due to fires, and utilizing data to adapt to a changing climate, is urgently needed. The team building this product is composed of the brightest ecology, technology, and forestry leaders, and we’re enthusiastic about its potential to enable meaningful fire mitigation year-round.”

In addition to Earthshot Ventures, Vibrant Planet is backed by a broad group of investors and philanthropists, including: Facebook’s chief product officer, Chris Cox; Netflix’s former chief product officer, Neil Hunt; The Jeremy and Hannelore Grantham Environmental Trust; Halogen Ventures; and several private family foundations.

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