A third of California is privately-owned forestland, woodland or grassland. From redwood forests on the north coast to oak savannas in the foothills, these “working wildlands” harbor native plants and animals and natural resources that shape California’s cultural and economic identity. The agricultural goods produced in these landscapes feed into a global market – from beef and dairy to building materials. Rangelands also help recharge groundwater. Healthy forests enhance water quality.

Harvest practices that are unsustainable, however, or conversion of these landscapes to more intensive land uses, can degrade habitats and reduce the flow of important benefits to people.

Working wildlands are what keep California stitched together ecologically. Their continued economic viability is key to the persistence of the ecological benefits they provide. Conservancy scientists work to figure out how to protect and enhance the function of these landscapes – as a critical network for nature.

Science in Action

Terrestrial | Technology

Monitoring Rangelands from Above

Can satellite monitoring replace in-person monitoring of conservation lands?

Freshwater | Terrestrial | Science

High Time for Conservation

How can science help us understand – and address – the environmental impacts of cannabis cultivation?

2018 | Terrestrial | Economics | Science | Publications & Reports

Toward a Carbon Neutral California: Economic and Climate Benefits of Land Use Interventions

David C. Marvin, Dick Cameron, Erik Nelson, Andrew Plantinga, Justin Breck, Gokce Sencan, Michelle Passero

Ecosystems can increase carbon storage under alternative management techniques and land use patterns. But the magnitude, timing, and spatial heterogeneity is uncertain. Assessing the potential and cost of land management and conservation activities to reduce emissions or increase carbon sequestration is needed to help the…


2018 | Terrestrial | Science | Publications & Reports

Oren Pollak Memorial Research Fund - 2019 RFP

The Oren Pollak Memorial Research Fund was established in 2000 in memory of Dr. Oren Pollak, a leading grassland ecologist and restoration pioneer, as well as an ardent champion and mentor for grassland ecology students. As The Nature Conservancy’s lead ecologist in California in the…


2018 | Freshwater | Terrestrial | Science | Publications & Reports

Waterbird response to variable-timing of drawdown in rice fields after winter-flooding

Kristen Sesser, Monica Iglecia, Matthew Reiter, Khara Strum, Catherine Hickey, Rodd Kelsey, Daniel Skalos

Over 50% of waterbird habitat in the Central Valley of California is provided by flooded agricultural land. Each year non-breeding waterbird habitat decreases in the late winter as flooded agricultural fields are drained after waterfowl hunting season in late-January to prepare for the next crop.…


2018 | Freshwater | Terrestrial | Marine | Planning | Science | Publications & Reports

Conserving California's Coastal Habitats: A Legacy and a Future with Sea Level Rise

Walter N. Heady, Brian S. Cohen, Mary G. Gleason, Joshua N. Morris, Sarah G. Newkirk, Kirk R. Klausmeyer, Hilary R. Walecka, Elizabeth Gagneron

Sea level rise presents a new challenge to coastal conservation. The authors quantified and mapped the vulnerability of habitats, imperiled species, and conservation lands to sea level rise throughout the entire California coast, where high biodiversity, high endemism, and 26.5 million people coincide. Combining habitat…


2018 | Freshwater | Terrestrial | Science | Publications & Reports

Impact of extreme drought and incentive programs on flooded agriculture and wetlands in California’s Central Valley

Matthew E. Reiter​, Nathan K. Elliott, Dennis Jongsomjit, Gregory H. Golet, Mark D. Reynolds

In the Central Valley of California, with 90% of the historic wetlands gone, waterbirds depend upon managed wetlands and seasonally flooded agriculture to meet their habitat needs. The 2013-2015 drought in the Central Valley was more severe than drought years during 2000-2011 and reduced waterbird…


2017 | Terrestrial | Science | Publications & Reports

Ecosystem management and land conservation can substantially contribute to California’s climate mitigation goals

D. Richard Cameron, David C. Marvin, Jonathan M. Remucal, Michelle C. Passero

Combatting climate change will require using all available tools, especially those that contribute to other societal and economic goals, such as natural resource protection and energy security. Conserving and managing natural and agricultural lands to retain and absorb greenhouse gasses (GHGs) are tools that have…


2017 | Terrestrial | Technology | Science | Publications & Reports

Novel fine-scale aerial mapping approach quantifies grassland weed cover dynamics and response to management

Carolyn M. Malmstrom, H. Scott Butterfield, Laura Planck, Christopher W. Long, Valerie T. Eviner

Invasive weeds threaten the biodiversity and forage productivity of grasslands worldwide. However, management of these weeds is constrained by the practical difficulty of detecting small-scale infestations across large landscapes and by limits in understanding of landscape-scale invasion dynamics. This study demonstrates the application of a…


2017 | Terrestrial | Planning | Microsite

The Bay Area Greenprint

Carrie Schloss, Elizabeth O'Donoghue, Christa Cassidy, Tom Robinson, Serena Unger, Adam Garcia, Dan Rademacher

The Bay Area Greenprint tool provides land use and infrastructure agencies, consultants, and advocates easily accessible, interpretable, and scientifically robust information on habitat and ecosystem service values in the Bay Area. Currently, natural and agricultural lands are not considered early enough in planning processes leading…


2017 | Freshwater | Terrestrial | Economics | Publications & Reports

Market-Based Mechanisms For Securing Environmental Water In California

Sarah Heard, Siobhan King, Eric Hallstein

California’s water supply is becoming increasingly unreliable. During dry times, consumptive use often outstrips supplies. As a result, people and nature suffer. This imbalance of supply and demand will likely grow worse if future demand for agricultural and urban water increases alongside a warming climate.…


2017 | Terrestrial | Science | Publications & Reports

Oren Pollak Memorial Research Fund - 2017 Annual Report

The Oren Pollak Memorial Research Fund was established in 2000 in memory of Dr. Oren Pollak, a leading grassland ecologist and restoration pioneer, as well as an ardent champion and mentor for grassland ecology students. As The Nature Conservancy’s lead ecologist in California in the…


2017 | Freshwater | Terrestrial | Planning | Publications & Reports

Informing watershed planning and policy in the Truckee River basin through stakeholder engagement, scenario development, and impact evaluation

Kristen Wilson, Erik Lowe, Stacey Wolny, Barry Nickel , Rodd Kelsey

This study demonstrates how science-based planning with stakeholder input can improve and direct conservation investments across existing state and jurisdictional boundaries. The authors set out to help direct the type, amount, and location of conservaiton investments in the Truckee River watershed in the Sierra Nevada…


2016 | Terrestrial | Science | Publications & Reports

Oren Pollak Memorial Research Fund - 2016 Annual Report

The Oren Pollak Memorial Research Fund provides student researchers with the funds necessary to pursue their studies and complete important research in grassland science. The Fund was established in 2000 in memory of Dr. Oren Pollak, a leading grassland ecologist, restoration pioneer, and a champion and mentor…


2016 | Terrestrial | Science | Publications & Reports

Historic and Recent Winter Sandhill Crane Distribution in California

Gary L. Ivey, Caroline P. Herziger, David A. Hardt, Gregory H. Golet

Understanding the geographic distribution and long-term dynamics of Sandhill Crane (Grus canadensis) foraging areas and night roost sites is fundamental to their conservation and management. The authors conducted surveys and compiled existing information on the distribution and abundance of these birds at these habitats across…


2015 | Terrestrial | Publications & Reports

Carbon Implications of Fuel Reduction and Ecological Restoration Treatments in Sierra Nevada Forests

Derek Young

A century of fire suppression has dramatically altered the structure and composition of western U.S. forests. When dense, fire-suppressed forests experience wildfire, they often burn severely. To reduce the risk of these wildfires and reduce carbon release to the atmosphere, both critical for climate change…


2014 | Terrestrial | Maps & Webmaps

California Rangeland Conversion webmap

Dick Cameron

This webmap shows regions of California converted from rangeland land use to development, intensive agriculture, or other miscellaneous land uses between 1984 and 2008. See related publication and blog


2014 | Terrestrial | Planning | Publications & Reports

Whither the Rangeland?: Protection and Conversion of California’s Rangeland Ecosystems

Cameron DR, Marty J, Holland RF

This study assesses the amount of rangeland conversion between 1984 and 2008 in California. The researchers analyzed data from the California Farmland Mapping and Monitoring Program to see where conversion has occurred and what land uses have replaced rangelands. The degree to which rangelands were protected…