With climate change, wildfires are becoming a big problem in many communities. To tackle this problem, in September 2021 – the company called Vibrant Planet launched Land Tender, an app that brings paper-based land management systems into the cloud. The system also provides land managers with the integrated, dynamic, high-resolution data and modeling they need to make more agile and informed decisions.
In other words, the tool — which is basically a SaaS (Software-as-a-Service) for forest management — enables land managers to 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.
Land Tender kicked off with a partnership with the Tahoe Fund, a nonprofit, and the California Tahoe Conservancy — helping 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. Simultaneously, a second partnership with the Truckee River Watershed Council created a comprehensive fire management plan for Lake Tahoe’s outlet, the Middle Truckee River Watershed, which serves as the main water source for the City of Reno and the Paiute Tribe in Northern Nevada.
“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,” Tahoe Fund CEO Amy Berry said at the time of the Land Tender announcement. “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.”
In the last few years, we were witnessing intense, destructive, and costly wildfires 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. In 2020 in California alone, wildfires resulted in the following:
- $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 structural damage and loss.
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 a solid option to help 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. It 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.
Vibrant Planet was started with $8 million in initial venture capital and philanthropic support from investors such as Earthshot Ventures, Facebook’s chief product officer Chris Cox, Netflix’s former chief product officer Neil Hunt, Elemental Excelerator, The Jeremy and Hannelore Grantham Environmental Trust, Halogen Ventures, and several private family foundations.
In June 2022, the company raised a $17 million seed round, adding more investors to the mix — including Ecosystem Integrity Fund (round lead), Valia Ventures, Cisco Foundation, and Day One Ventures, among others.
Within the platform, users can prioritize their objectives, like fire risk, endangered species conservation, or water quality. They can then run analyses to determine how different landscape treatments will affect their priorities.
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.
Land Tender's initial market is California, so if you happen to work for a municipality in the Golden State that could be affected by wildfires, you may want to contact them to take advantage of their technology. From what we're getting, it's not cheap, but it's definitely more affordable than having to deal with the effects of a wildfire. The tool will help you minimize the damage and even avoid it completely. With the climate changing rapidly, you should have all the tools you can in order to prepare for all kinds of disasters. Being prepared makes your community that much more resilient.
If your company serves municipalities near big forests, consider contacting Vibrant Planet and exploring the option of distributing their service. Since this isn't really low-cost software, chances are there is room for your company to make some money along the way... All while delivering a valuable service to cities and towns that could otherwise (without using Land Tender) suffer major consequences in the event of a wildfire. Like it or not, the climate is changing and tools like these help you keep forests, people and their property safe.
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Incline Village, Nevada, United States