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California Land Cover Mapping and Monitoring Program

Program Overview

The California Department of Forestry and Fire Protection and the USDA Forest Service conduct land cover mapping and monitoring to enhance fire protection and natural resource management on public and private lands in California. Remotely sensed data and GIS (geographic information systems) are used to accomplish the program objectives. This program generates data that describe the extent and condition of various land cover types, and the magnitude and cause (e.g. urbanization, natural succession, wildfire, and timber harvest) of land cover changes. This program uses Landsat Thematic Mapper (TM) satellite imagery to map land cover types and derive land cover changes across all ownerships. The state is covered in five unique project areas. One project area is completed each year, then revisited and updated every fifth year.

Final mapping products from this program include species groupings, tree size and tree canopy closure with a minimum map unit of 2.5 acres. Resulting monitoring products include a change map depicting vegetation cover increases and decreases, a coverage of known cause for change areas and an annual statistical report documenting the area and effects of land cover change.

Meetings are held throughout each project area prior to the mapping and monitoring processes. These meetings serve as a forum for information sharing and often enhance our current efforts. All meetings are open to anyone interested in our cooperative monitoring program.

Major Uses
  • Develop a baseline for amount and extent of California's forest and range resources
  • Examine effectiveness of existing policies
  • Assist in evaluation of watershed cumulative impacts
  • Track forest health trends
  • Map hazardous fuels
  • Model wildlife habitat

Land Cover Mapping

Land cover data establish existing conditions from which impacts of changes over time can be assessed. The data are captured using automated, systematic procedures that can efficiently and consistently map large areas at a low cost. Land cover products are developed to meet Federal Geographic Data Committee standards and the needs of various state and local cooperators.

Land Cover Mapping Products
  • Cover type
  • Tree size and canopy closure
  • 2.5 acre minimum map unit
  • Accuracy statisitics
For more information, see

Land Cover Monitoring

Monitoring addresses important issues at multiple scales. Regionally, monitoring can identify critical causes of change or provide an early warning system for habitats being degraded. Locally, monitoring can assess county land use policies, identify areas of insects or disease problems, or assess the extent of timber harvest in a watershed.

Land Cover Monitoring Products
  • Map of increasing and decreasing land cover
  • Causes of land cover changes
  • Summary statistics and accuracy assessment
For more information, see

Mapping and Monitoring Areas

The Mapping and Monitoring Program uses Ecological Zones.

Related Products

Cooperation and Collaboration

This program creates the opportunity for collaboration among users interested in land cover mapping and monitoring data. Briefings, meetings, and workshops are held throughout each project area to encourage cooperation and share information. Cooperators can provide existing data, review draft products, and/or cost-share.


  • CAL FIRE Fire and Resource Assessment Program
    Mark Rosenberg
    Research Program Specialist (GIS)
    Vegetation and Fire
    (916) 445-5366
  • USDA Forest Service
    Carlos Ramirez
    Vegetation Mapping and Inventory Group Leader
    (916) 640-1275

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