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?

2022 | Freshwater | Terrestrial | Technology | Science | Publications & Reports

Quantity and fate of synthetic microfiber emissions from apparel washing in California and strategies for their reduction

Roland Geyer, Jenna Gavigan, Alexis M. Jackson, Vienna R. Saccomanno, Sangwon Suh, Mary G. Gleason

Synthetic microfibers are the most prevalent type of microplastic and apparel washing is a major source of microfiber pollution. Using California as a case study to estimate the magnitude of microfiber emissions and evaluate mitigation approaches, the authors estimate that in 2019 over 4,850,000 pounds (2.2…


2021 | Freshwater | Terrestrial | Science | Publications & Reports

Integrating citizen science data with expert surveys increases accuracy and spatial extent of species distribution models.

O.J. Robinson, V. Ruiz-Gutierrez, M.D. Reynolds, G.H. Golet, M. Strimas-Mackey and D. Fink

Information on species’ habitat associations and distributions, across wide spatial and temporal scales, is fundamental for guiding conservation. Yet these data are often in short supply. In recent years citizen science data, such as that derived from eBird, has increasingly become available to fill…


2021 | Terrestrial | Planning | Science | Publications & Reports

Enhancing Habitat Value for Shorebirds in Rice Agriculture

Case study by: Khara Strum (Audubon California), Kristin Sesser (Point Blue Conservation Science), Greg Golet (TNC)

This case study communicates lessons learned by TNC and partners from years of research and monitoring of habitat enhancement projects in Sacramento Valley rice agriculture. It is a contribution to the Shorebird Management Manual that was developed by Manomet with guidance from shorebird…


2021 | Terrestrial | Technology | Economics | Science | Publications & Reports

Tahoe-Central Sierra Initiative Phase 1 Restoration Wood Supply Assessment

Tom Baribault, Daniel Porter, Jessica Burton Desrocher, Douglas Larmour, Mark Rasmussen, Roy Anderson

The Tahoe-Central Sierra Initiative (TCSI) area has seen recent megafires and is highly developed, making the risk new of human-caused wildfire ignitions high. In this report, experts from Mason Bruce & Girard, The Beck Group and The Nature Conservancy assess quantities of…


2021 | Terrestrial | Technology | Economics | Science | Publications & Reports

Accelerating Forest Restoration: Stimulating a Forest-Restoration Economy and Rebuilding Resilience in California’s Fire-Adapted Forests

Daniel Porter, Robert Longcor

Forests of the Sierra Nevada and across the western U.S. are under unprecedented threat from catastrophic wildfire, insect outbreaks, and drought. In this briefing paper, which was developed as a collaboration between Bain and Company and The Nature Conservancy, we assess the challenges and…


2020 | Freshwater | Terrestrial | Science | Publications & Reports

A meta-analysis contrasting active versus passive restoration practices in dryland agricultural ecosystems

M. Florencia Miguel, H. Scott Butterfield, Christopher J. Lortie

This meta-analysis provides a global synthesis of the which restoration practices – active vs. passive – are most successful at restoring plants, animals, and other ecosystem functions to dryland agricultural (grazing and farmlands) ecosystems, including the San Joaquin Valley of California where The Nature Conservancy…


2020 | Terrestrial | Technology | Publications & Reports

Remote Property Monitoring at The Nature Conservancy in California

Ethan Inlander, Katie Andrews, Contributors: Jennifer Chin, Sue Pollock, Mike McFadden, Scott Hardage, Scott Butterfield, Tod Rubin

With this publication, TNC in California marks a major shift in its approach to conservation easement monitoring. At the crossroads of conservation, stewardship and technology lies remote property monitoring, an emerging practice that uses airborne/satellite imagery and a seamless web-based platform.  This solution to meeting…


2020 | Terrestrial | Science | Publications & Reports

Habitat selection by spotted owls after a megafire reflects their adaptation to historical frequent-fire regimes

Gavin M. Jones, H. Anu Kramer, Sheila A. Whitmore, William J. Berigan, Douglas J. Tempel, Connor M. Wood, Brendan K. Hobart, Tedward Erker, Fidelis A. Atuo, Nicole F. Pietrunti, Rodd Kelsey, R. J. Gutierrez, M. Zachariah Peery

This study examined spotted owl habitat selection after the King Fire in California using satellite tracking of 26 different owls . The authors found that whether severe fire was "good" or "bad" for owls depended on patch size and configuration: owls selected smaller but avoided…


2019 | Terrestrial | Science | Publications & Reports

Oren Pollak Memorial Research Fund - 2020 RFP

Brynn Pewtherer

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…


2019 | Terrestrial | Planning | Publications & Reports

Green Light Study: Economic and Conservation Benefits of Low-Impact Solar Siting in California

Stephanie Dashiell, Mark Buckley, Dustin Mulvaney

In an effort to address climate change, California enacted a clean energy energy standard that is driving a market for significant amounts of renewable energy. To explore the economic benefits of developing utility-scale solar energy on low biodiversity value land, the authors conducted an analysis…


2019 | Freshwater | Terrestrial | Science | Publications & Reports

Scenarios of climate adaptation potential on protected working lands from management of soils

Kristin B Byrd, Pelayo Alvarez, Benjamin Sleeter, Lorraine Flint, Alan Flint, Richard Cameron, Jeffrey Creque

Management of protected lands may enhance ecosystem services that conservation programs were designed to protect. Practices that build soil organic matter on agricultural lands also increase soil water holding capacity, potentially reducing climatic water deficit, increasing actual evapotranspiration and increasing groundwater recharge. The authors of this…


2019 | Freshwater | Terrestrial | Science | Publications & Reports

Effects of cover crops on multiple ecosystem services: Ten meta-analyses of data from arable farmland in California and the Mediterranean

Gorm E. Shackelford, Rodd Kelsey, Lynn V. Dicks

As California and other major agricultural regions around the world tackle the challenge of increasing the sustainability of agriculture to improve environmental health, cover crops are increasingly viewed as an important practice to protect soils and contribute to climate change mitigation. In this analysis, the authors…


2019 | Terrestrial | Planning | Technology | Economics | Science | Publications & Reports

Power of Place: Land Conservation and Clean Energy Pathways for California

Grace C. Wu, Emily Leslie, Douglas Allen, Oluwafemi Sawyerr, D. Richard Cameron, Erica Brand, Brian Cohen, Marcela Ochoa, Arne Olson

California has ambitious climate and energy policies that call for the development of significant amounts of new zero-carbon energy by midcentury. The Power of Place study looks at multiple pathways to meet California's clean energy demand in alignment with decarbonization goals while limiting the impacts…


2019 | Terrestrial | Planning | Science | Publications & Reports

Making habitat connectivity a reality

Annika T. H. Keeley, Galli Basson, D. Richard Cameron, Nicole E. Heller, Patrick R. Huber, Carrie A. Schloss, James H. Thorne, Adina M. Merenlender

Connectivity conservation must move more rapidly from planning to implementation. We provide an evidence‐based solution composed of key elements for successful on‐the‐ground connectivity implementation. We identified the social processes necessary to advance habitat connectivity for biodiversity conservation and resilient landscapes under climate change.


2019 | Terrestrial | Planning | Science | Publications & Reports

The Relative Importance of Agricultural and Wetland Habitats to Waterbirds in the Sacramento–San Joaquin River Delta of California

W. David Shuford, Matthew E. Reiter, Kristin A. Sesser, Catherine M. Hickey, Gregory H. Golet

Agricultural intensification has been a major factor in the loss of global biodiversity. Even so, agricultural landscapes provide important habitat for many bird species, particularly in the Central Valley of California, where >90% of wetlands have been lost. This study demonstrates that wetlands, and certain…


2019 | Terrestrial | Planning | Science | Publications & Reports

New concepts, models, and assessments of climate-wise connectivity

Annika T H Keeley, David D Ackerly, D Richard Cameron, Nicole E Heller, Patrick R Huber, Carrie A Schloss, James H Thorne, Adina M Merenlender

As climate change impacts wildlife and plants, species may need to access new habitats. Various approaches exist to plan to climate-driven habitat connectivity needs. We summarize the literature of connectivity planning that accounts for climate change, and suggest guidance for preferred approaches given various objectives.


2019 | Terrestrial | Science | Publications & Reports

Organic amendment additions to rangelands: A meta‐analysis of multiple ecosystem outcomes

Kelly Gravuer, Sasha Gennet, Heather L. Throop

Interest in land application of organic amendments—such as biosolids, composts, and manures—is growing among landowners, managers, and climate policy leaders due to their potential to increase soil carbon and help mitigate climate change, as well as to support soil health and regenerative agriculture. While organic…


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

Brynn Pewtherer

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…