Figure 1. Map of Current Mission Threats by Region

Changing How We Manage Natural Resources

The Department of Defense (DoD) manages and relies on 27 million acres of testing and training land for military readiness; however, climate change undermines the DoD's ability to maintain natural and built infrastructure that supports mission activities, both on our installations and in surrounding communities and landscapes. Some regions with concentrated installations face a unique combination of threats (Figure 1) and require custom innovations to help natural resource managers adapt to current and projected changes.

Ecosystem transformations are occurring faster than most federal agencies can currently manage and adapt. Although mission planners, engineers, and natural resource managers of military lands have identified needs to adapt to ecosystem change, a pathway to communicate with the research community does not exist, slowing the development of innovation that responds to operational needs. More deliberate coordination is required to accelerate the pace of adopting new technologies and approaches to adaptation planning in concentrated DoD landscapes.

The DoD established the Innovation Landscapes Network (ILN) with the US Geological Survey and other partner research and land management agencies to increase the pace of innovation in conservation management, reduce duplicative efforts, and transfer new technologies across representative federal landscapes. The ILN has the following objectives:    

  • Establishes a co-production relationship between the research community and natural resource managers in technology development    
  • Facilitates a collaborative network where validated technologies and practices are scaled across federal landscapes
  • Curates feedback loops for information flow among the research community, natural resource managers, and policymakers 
  • Builds synergy among federal agency land and resource management priorities

Figure 2. To address compounding threats to installations, we must rely on traditional pathways as well as end-user perspectives for developing new tools and technologies. Innovation landscapes offer a dynamic approach by connecting end-user communities with researchers and emerging technologies to rapidly assess and refine ideas for effective adaptation and resilience.

 

Our Regional Approach

Innovation most often comes from the ground up. The ILN’s approach aligns new Research and Development (R&D) investments with existing landscape-scale partnerships to identify goals and challenges and confront threats to mission sustainment. Regional landscape sites experiencing rapid change are testing initial SERDP and ESTCP tools and technologies for application and establishing continuous needs assessment for accelerated science support. Partners within the region then work to transition tools and technologies to scale.

Our current regional landscape sites are located in Alaska to address permafrost degradation, the Eastern U.S. to address prescribed fire planning needs, and the Southwestern U.S. to address a combination of ecological threats. Each landscape team facilitates a “bottom-up” approach, where local adaptation, custom modeling application, and manager-driven science support is required for success. Upon the success of local implementation, technologies will be evaluated and coordinated for regional or national application through existing partnerships such as Sentinel Landscapes.

 

Landscape Networks

Alaska Innovation Landscape Network

The DoD maintains a strong presence in Alaska and is focused on improving Arctic capabilities to deter conflict and protect national interests. This landscape site is transitioning a suite of SERDP and ESTCP projects focused on terrestrial Arctic research and technologies. The goal is to develop mission critical data and tools on built and natural infrastructure based on permafrost thawing dynamics and projected climate.

Lead Organization: U.S. Army Corps of Engineers, Engineer Research and Development Center, Cold Regions Research and Engineering Laboratory  
Contact: Michelle Michaels, Michelle.L.Michaels@erdc.dren.mil


 

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Eastern Innovation Landscape Network

Prescribed fire is the most cost-efficient and effective tool for managing and mitigating wildfire risk in the rapidly changing and complex fire-dependent ecosystems of the Eastern U.S. The Eastern Innovation Landscape Network (EILN)—a joint effort between the U.S. Forest Service, the U.S. Fish and Wildlife Service, and the Office of the Secretary of Defense—is a working collaborative that has created advanced tools and technology in coordination with DoD wildland fire managers. EILN meets evolving land management needs of the Eastern U.S. spurred by ecosystem change, such as shifting climate conditions and the spread of invasive species. Relying upon existing collaborations, EILN implements and evaluates these validated tools and technologies at installations and other federally owned lands that use prescribed fire for conservation and wildfire risk reduction in the Eastern U.S.

Lead Organization: U.S. Forest Service  
Partners: DoD Office of the Assistant Secretary of Defense’s Energy, Installations and Environment, U.S. Forest Service, and U.S. Fish and Wildlife Service  
Contacts:  
Brett Williams, Brett.Williams@usda.gov 
James Furman, James.H.Furman@usda.gov

 

Southwest Innovation Landscape Network

Arid to semi-arid ecosystems in southwestern U.S. (California, Nevada, Utah, Colorado, New Mexico and Arizona) are some of the fastest changing landscapes in the country with increasing exposure to severe climate impacts, such as unprecedented wildfires, severe drought, extreme precipitation, sea level rise, and flooding. Many ecosystems face degradation and erosion of soil, loss of habitat for wildlife, culturally important, and threatened and endangered species, and increases in invasive, highly flammable exotic grasses and plants. DoD installations, training ranges, and surrounding communities face the loss and damage of natural and built infrastructure, reductions in water availability and quality, increases in dust and smoke, threatening military readiness and the well-being of communities inside and outside the fence. Other federally stewarded lands also face these challenges, including communities embedded within forests and those situated in the wildland-urban interface. Nature based solutions (NbS) offer exceptional opportunities to develop an effective response to ongoing climate impacts. Applications of landscape-level NbS, including key technologies that facilitate their application, are increasingly shown to reduce the vulnerability and increase the resilience of biodiversity and the natural and cultural resources that are important to human well-being. At landscape sites in Arizona and southern California, partners already are focused on developing, integrating, and applying innovative ecological and advanced fire models to prioritize and evaluate adaptation strategies for improved natural resource management. Future landscape nodes also are being scoped for investment and implementation, leveraging existing partnership-based efforts, to accelerate a collective response to rapid environmental and climatic changes.

Lead Organizations: US Geological Survey, Department of the Navy
Partners: Bureau of Indian Affairs, Bureau of Land Management, US Fish and Wildlife Service, USDA Forest Service, DoD Office of the Assistant Secretary of Defense’s Energy, Installations and Environment
Contacts: 
Carolyn Enquist, USGS, Southwest Innovation Landscapes Coordinator, cenquist@usgs.gov 
Paul Steblein, USGS, Wildland Fire Innovation Landscape Nodes, psteblein@usgs.gov 
Jesse Ross, Department of the Navy, Military Installation-based Innovation Landscape Nodes, jesse.j.ross15.civ@us.navy.mil 

 

Work With Us

ILN seeks to collaborate across the federal government and represents an opportunity to align federal priorities and agency missions to confront threats to natural infrastructure. Agencies and organizations that are interested in learning more about our efforts or partnering with us can contact Tracy Mallard at tracy.mallard@noblis.org. For information about leveraging an existing landscape for technology development and demonstration, please contact the site lead.