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LANDFIRE: Landscape Conservation Forecasting™ for Washington County’s National Conservation Areas

​Given the recent changes in Mojave Desert disturbance regimes (fire and non‐native species), the present management of the Red Cliffs and Beaver Dam Wash National Conservation Areas (NCAs) provides opportunity to improve ecological resilience, conserve and restore quality of desert tortoise habitat, and reduce detrimental effects of wildfire to ecological systems with uncharacteristic fuel accumulations. The Landscape Conservation Forecast (tm) (LCF) project aims to build a good foundation for this to happen.
LANDFIRE Products were used extensively in LCF process. The 2011 application of LCF to the two NCAs in Washington County was a pioneering new reach for the process. It was the first use of LCF at the much lower elevations of the Mojave Desert, where habitats are hotter and more harsh than those of prior LCF applications. Major vegetation types “new” to LCF in this setting include thermic shrublands of blackbrush and creosotebush. Never before had the LCF process dealt with such complete and comprehensive ecological departure – most of the ecological systems in the two NCAs had departure values at the maximum of 100%, i.e. total dis‐similarity from these systems’ natural range of variability.
Never before had LCF encountered such a nearly‐intractable problem as the pervasive abundance of annual brome grasses that foster destructive wildfires of a size and intensity far greater than the fire regime with which Mojave Desert habitats developed over past millennia. Under these conditions, the predominant habitats of the Mojave Desert are fertile subjects for rapidly‐developing scientific study. Ideally, quantitative values given to parameters in the models – especially success/failure rates of promising new management actions such as the BFOD fungi – would be grounded in credible scientific studies. However, this science has not yet “matured” to the point of its conclusions gaining widespread acceptance. Therefore, the partners conducting this LCF process assigned some model parameter values according to educated, experimental best‐conclusions that seemed plausible, in lieu of waiting for defensible values from the results of ongoing studies.
In a sense, the models in the two NCAs thus forecast the results of “experiments” – types, levels and combinations of management actions – that the partners believe to have some realistic chance of success for improving ecological conditions. The partners all acknowledge that the models are adaptive, and thus must be adapted in the future according to actual field results – degree of success – of management actions.