Led by the Geographic Analysis and Monitoring Program of the U.S. Geological Survey (USGS) in collaboration with the U.S. Environmental Protection Agency (EPA) and the National Aeronautics and Space Administration (NASA), the Land-Cover Trends Project was initiated in 1999 and aims to document the types, geographic distributions, and rates of land-cover change on a region by region basis for the conterminous United States, and to determine some of the key drivers and consequences of the change (Loveland and others, 2002). For 1973, 1980, 1986, 1992, and 2000 land-cover maps derived from the Landsat series are classified by visual interpretation, inspection of historical aerial photography and ground survey, into 11 land-cover classes. The classes are defined to capture land cover that is discernable in Landsat data. A stratified probability-based sampling methodology undertaken within the 84 Omernik Level III Ecoregions (Omernik, 1987) was used to locate the blocks, with 9 to 48 blocks per ecoregion. The sampling was designed to enable a statistically robust 'scaling up' of the sample-classification data to estimate areal land-cover change within each ecoregion (Loveland and others, 2002; Stehman and others, 2005).
At the time of writing, approximately 90 percent of the 84 conterminous United States ecoregions have been processed by the Land-Cover Trends Project. Results from these completed ecoregions illustrate that across the conterminous United States there is no single profile of land-cover/land-use change, rather, there are varying pulses affected by clusters of change agents (Loveland and others, 2002).
Land-Cover Trends Project results for the conterminous United States to-date are being used for collaborative environmental change research with partners such as; the National Science Foundation, the National Oceanic and Atmospheric Administration, and the U.S. Fish and Wildlife Service. The strategy has also been adapted for use in a NASA global deforestation initiative, and elements of the project design are being used in the North American Carbon Program's assessment of forest disturbance.