Land Trust Climate Change Initiative
In January 2017, the Land Trust Alliance launched a new program to help land trusts address climate change. Funded by a generous catalyst grant from the Doris Duke Charitable Foundation, the Land Trust Climate Change Initiative is a bold new Alliance program that will provide land trusts with the strategies, training and tools they need to both adapt to and mitigate climate change in their land conservation work.
After investing decades of hard work and billions of dollars in conservation in the U.S., land trusts are increasingly concerned about the impacts of climate change. They are seeking tools, resources and training to help them adopt climate adaptation and mitigation practices. They also are asking for help in addressing one of the principal ways that the nation will ultimately mitigate climate change: the buildout of large-scale renewable energy facilities.
The goals of the Initiative are designed to address these needs by:
- Partnering with the Open Space Institute in New York to deliver training and tools for land trusts that want to incorporate climate science into their acquisition and stewardship planning, thereby increasing the number of land trusts whose strategic conservation plans address climate impacts and promote climate resilience.
- Promoting the use of land to mitigate climate change through the ability of soils and vegetation to absorb and store carbon, in partnership with The Nature Conservancy, Finite Carbon, government partners, and others. To do this, we will:
- Promote the concept of natural climate solutions, such as absorption of carbon in soils, grasslands and other vegetation) within the land trust community
- Help land trusts participate in carbon markets (primarily the California Compliance Offset Program) and federal carbon-reduction programs
- Shaping federal policies affecting private landowners to promote natural climate solutions
- Empowering land trusts to encourage the buildout of renewable energy facilities while steering the facilities away from sensitive lands through a pilot project in New York, which will help land trusts in other states effectively navigate similar challenges. As part of a larger stakeholder process led by The Nature Conservancy, the New York effort will help shape New York state policy and guidelines related to renewable energy siting.
The land trust community has a moral obligation to address the climate crisis. And we can help mitigate climate change by doing what we’ve always done: conserving more land and stewarding it effectively. In doing so, we’ll definitively demonstrate our relevance to people and their wellbeing, while simultaneously bringing home significant financial resources to power our land conservation efforts. This new Initiative will enable the land trust community to vigorously go down this path.
To help lead this Initiative, the Alliance is currently seeking qualified candidates for the position of climate change program manager (see job announcement).
For more information about this Initiative and opportunities for your land trust to participate, please contact: Erin Heskett, director of national and regional services via email or call 269-215-1760.
How is climate change impacting the land you love?
Climate change is a global event, but its impacts are very local.
- In Colorado, milder winters may be encouraging the pests that have caused the dramatic die-offs of lodgepole pine forests.
- In New England, the predominantly maple-beech-birch forests famous for their fall color may give way to oak-hickory forests.
- Coastal communities are increasingly hard hit by severe storms, from Katrina to Sandy.
- Coastal areas are also threatened by sea level rise that could wipe out homes, businesses, and natural habitats.
- Floods, droughts, heat waves, and wildfires are becoming more severe across the country. These changes create serious problems for farmers and ranchers. Wildlife are also struggling to adapt.
It’s important to call attention to the local impacts of climate change in ways that will engage people in your community. Understanding local impacts also helps you to plan for conservation that will increase your community’s resilience. Use our climate change website to:
- Learn how climate change will impact your region
- Plan for change and resilience
- Adapt management practices for agriculture and wildlife habitat
How land conservation reduces climate change
The rapid climate change we are experiencing today is caused by greenhouse gases released by human activity. In the atmosphere, these gases trap heat from the sun, essentially over-insulating the Earth. But forests and other undeveloped lands can absorb greenhouse gases, keeping them out of the atmosphere.
Forests, prairies, farmland and other natural habitats absorb approximately 15% of the U.S.’s carbon dioxide emissions. That’s a huge benefit — but one that we stand to lose if we keep converting open land for development.
In fact, land conservation offers a double benefit for the climate. It not only helps absorb greenhouse gases; it also prevents significant greenhouse gas emissions that would result from development — including deforestation, construction, and the additional driving required by poorly planned growth.
Because of these major benefits, the Alliance advocates for climate change policies that will promote and fund land conservation. The Alliance also helps to educate land trusts about opportunities to finance conservation through growing carbon markets.
A new conservation priority: climate adaptation
Climate change is happening and it’s accelerating. Although we can still prevent the most severe impacts, we can’t stop climate change. Even if we eliminated all climate-changing emissions tomorrow, the greenhouse gases already in our atmosphere would continue to change the climate. Since we can’t stop climate change, we need to prepare for it. For land trusts, this means rethinking how we approach land conservation.
For example, in 50 years, a property that is a coastal marsh today might be underwater. To preserve this habitat, a land trust might prioritize properties that are just upland, so the marsh can move inland as sea levels rise. Conserving land for the marsh could help both human and wild communities adapt to climate change. For example, it could buffer a nearby neighborhood from heavy storms, reducing loss of life and property. It could also replace lost habitat for plants and animals or form part of a corridor so they can migrate to new habitat.
In an era of rapid climate change, strategic conservation planning is complex — but more important than ever. Fortunately, conservation organizations have developed sophisticated frameworks that land trusts can use to assess vulnerability, identify priorities for resilience, and adapt to change. Check out our strategic conservation planning case studies.
How will you respond to climate change? Check out the climate change website, Conservation in a Changing Climate.
Director of National and Regional Services
269-215-1760 | email@example.com
Erin Derrington, Climate Change Website Manager