The Climate Atlas icon

The Climate Atlas User Guide

Find out how to use the open-access, web-based Climate Atlas tool to identify priority public lands for climate and biodiversity protection across a variety of scales, from local to nationwide.

Main Features of The Climate Atlas

The Climate Atlas contains a variety of interactive, science-based features that you can use to explore different outcomes and results based on your specific conservation objectives.

With The Climate Atlas, you can:

The Climate Atlas icon

View baseline data on the health and status of a landscape.

The Climate Atlas icon

Identify which public lands offer the best opportunities for storing carbon, supporting wildlife and species richness, and protecting biodiversity.

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Prioritize which public lands to protect based on the models and values you select.

Using The Climate Atlas: 4 Basic Steps

Whether you’re a conservation planner, an elected official, or an everyday public lands champion, ​​The Climate Atlas can help you advocate for public lands protections through four basic steps:

Step 1: Choose a Focal Area

Snapshot of Climate Atlas

The tool provides high-resolution, coast-to-coast coverage of the lower 48 U.S. states and Alaska.

  • You can select one of the predetermined Focal Areas:
    • Contiguous U.S.
    • Alaska (also Tongass National Forest, National Petroleum Reserve, Arctic National Wildlife Refuge)
    • California
  • Search for a location by name in the search box (lower right)
  • Or use the“polygon tool” icon (lower right) to plot the outline of your own geographic area. Within your desired area, you can hold down the “Shift” key and click on individual land parcels to add them to your analysis. Polygon tool

Step 2: Choose Context Layers

The Climate Atlas, showing the available Jurisdictions layers

The Climate Atlas contains several static layers to provide baseline information about the status of a selected landscape.

Jurisdictions are lands that have some form of existing federal designation. The Climate Atlas displays baseline data on:

  • Protected Lands
  • Federal Lands
  • Congressional Districts
  • Tribal Lands*

* This layer identifies American Indian and Alaska Native reservation lands and lands held in trust by the U.S. government for federally recognized tribes and individual Native Americans. However, the designers of The Climate Atlas recognize that all land in the U.S. is Indigenous land.

Important Management Areas are lands that are managed under some form of existing federal administrative plan. The tool includes baseline data on:

  • U.S. Forest Service Inventoried Roadless Areas
  • All Roadless Areas
  • BLM ACECs [Areas of Critical Environmental Concern]
  • Sage Grouse Priority Areas
  • Sage Grouse Range
  • BLM Lands with Wilderness Characteristics
  • National Monuments and Conservation Areas

Existing Impacts identify lands that are currently facing impacts from oil and gas development. The tool includes baseline data on:

  • Oil and Gas Wells
  • Oil and Gas Fields

Step 3: Choose a Model or Indicator

The Climate Atlas, showing the available model & indicator layers

The Climate Atlas applies an innovative approach to integrate six different climate and ecological indicators into a set of three broader models.

You can select one or more of these models to get an overall sense of the conservation value of a particular landscape – whether for protecting biodiversity, mitigating climate change, or a composite of both.

You can also explore the six specific indicators that make up these models. Play around with the options! Even if a landscape doesn’t have high conservation value based on the overall (composite) model, it may have high biodiversity, species richness, or climate resilience value.

By using the Layer Opacity toggle bar, you can let one layer stand out more than another to gain a clearer understanding of the different data being shown.

Learn more about the six climate and ecological indicators and three broader models.

Step 4: Identify Conservation Opportunities

The tool helps you identify public lands managed by the Bureau of Land Management and the U.S. Forest Service that have high conservation values but no federal protection.

You can view which of these unprotected lands fall within the top 5%, 10%, or 20% of conservation value based on the specific model selected (e.g., how many acres in a given area are in the top 5%, 10%, or 20% of the Carbon & Climate Model).

Using these results, you can assess which currently unprotected lands might be of highest priority for gaining federal protection.

Here too, by using the Layer Opacity toggle bar, you can let one layer stand out more than another. Or, you can use the two toggle bars in coordination to gain a clearer understanding of the different data being shown.

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