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 National Innovation Landscape Network (NILN) 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 NILN 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 NILN’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

Alaskan 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,


Eastern Innovation Landscape Network

The SERDP Wildland Fire Science Initiative (WFSI) is a working collaborative that has created advanced tools and technology in coordination with the DoD wildland fire managers. The WFSI has existing structures and a collaborative network in place that lend itself to scaling technologies across DoD and federally managed lands, so SERDP established this landscape to implement and evaluate validated tools and technologies at installations and other federally owned lands that rely on prescribed fire for conservation and wildfire risk reduction in the Eastern U.S. This landscape represents a joint effort between the U.S. Forest Service, the U.S. Fish and Wildlife Service, and the Office of the Secretary of Defense.

Lead Organization: U.S. Forest Service  
Partners: DoD, U.S. Forest Service, and U.S. Fish and Wildlife Service  
Contact: Brett Williams,


Southwest Innovation Landscape Network

Arid ecosystems of the Southwest are the fastest changing geographic landscapes of the country, with multiple military installations facing larger, more severe wildfires that pose critical threats to human life, infrastructure, wildlife habitat, and natural and cultural resources. At landscapes sites in southern California and southeastern Arizona, partners are focused on developing, integrating, and applying advanced models of fuel, fire behavior, and ecological systems to evaluate management strategies and treatment effectiveness under current and potential future levels of effort. The site is demonstrating cutting-edge approaches, including integrated 3D modeling and data approaches, unmanned aircraft systems (UAS), high-resolution satellite imagery, and advanced wildfire simulation models.

Lead Organization: USGS Southwest Biological Center
Partners: DoD, U.S. Fish and Wildlife Service, Bureau of Indian Affairs, Bureau of Land Management  
Contact: Paul Steblein,


Work With Us

NILN 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 For information about leveraging an existing landscape for technology development and demonstration, please contact the site lead.