Photo Credit: Jerry Monkman

Four Regions Targeted for New Conservation Fund

Web Map RLI Resilient 4 regions

dividerFour Northeast and Mid-Atlantic regions chosen for landmark conservation initiativedivider

NEW YORK, NY — June 7, 2013 — Four landscapes that analysis by the Open Space Institute shows are strongly positioned to facilitate wildlife adaptation to climate change are now eligible for capital grants for land protection and planning assistance to non-profit and public agencies as part of OSI’s $6 million Resilient Landscapes Initiative. This initiative was made possible with a lead grant from the Doris Duke Charitable Foundation.

The four landscapes are: the southern New Hampshire and Maine forested region, the Middle Connecticut River region in Massachusetts and Vermont, the Potomac Headwaters of Virginia and West Virginia, and the Highlands and Kittatinny Ridge of New Jersey and Pennsylvania. These four climate change-resilient regions have been selected to participate in the initiative across 13 states in the Northeast and Mid-Atlantic, according to OSI analysis based on data from The Nature Conservancy’s Resilient Sites for Terrestrial Conservation.

Each region, chosen among dozens evaluated by OSI, will be eligible initially for a minimum of $500,000 and an additional share of a total of $5.5 million in grants available for land conservation in all four landscapes, and smaller grants and technical assistance for planning for wildlife adaptation strategies. For more information, see www.osiny.org/resilientlandscape

Resilient landscapes are natural strongholds, providing habitat for a variety of plants and animals and benefits for humans, such as clean water, and potentially resistance to drought, flooding, rising temperatures and other threats associated with climate change.

“One of the biggest challenges facing the land conservation movement is to protect the places that will endure,” said Kim Elliman, OSI’s president and CEO. “We need to be able to answer the question, ‘Will the places we protect today be capable of sustaining biodiversity tomorrow?’ We think resiliency science will help us all in this endeavor.”

“The opportunity this new fund creates is paramount,” said Malcolm L. “Mac” Hunter, a professor of wildlife ecology at the University of Maine and a member of the science committee advising the Resilient Landscapes Initiative. “The lands it will conserve will truly stand the test of time, protecting both humans and wildlife in perpetuity, even as we face significant and unpredictable climate change.”

Most climate science has focused on how forecasted changes in temperature and precipitation will affect the habitat of wildlife and its movements. But predicting such changes can be difficult. TNC’s science focuses instead on the qualities of landscapes that are likely to sustain biodiversity regardless of changes in the climate. Resilient landscapes, they find, are those that are both complex and connected, or unfragmented. The more complex the site, the more species will be able to take advantage of the micro-climates available among the slopes, cliffs, valleys, ravines, caves and lowlands of a complex landscape. The more connected the site—the fewer the roads, buildings and other infrastructure—the more species can move around and access its complex features. Together, landform complexity and local connectivity indicate how resilient a particular site may be to climate change.  

Southern New Hampshire and Maine stands out for its significant biodiversity at a critical ecological divide. About 80 percent of the region ranks as highly resilient, using TNC’s data, with nearly half of it very complex, half of it also highly connected and containing a significant amount of geological types that support important biodiversity but are not conserved.

The Middle Connecticut River landscape contains hardwood forests and clean, cold water streams. About 85 percent of the region includes above-average resilient sites, of which only 17 percent is currently protected. A little more than half of the area contains complex landscapes, which provide diverse microclimates that facilitate wildlife adaptation.

The Cacapon/Lost Rivers and the South Branch of the Potomac are the two least-developed major tributary watersheds of the mainstem Potomac, giving them a vital role in feeding freshwater to the Chesapeake Bay. Approximately 60 percent of the Central Appalachians landscape scores above-average for resilience, and 20 percent of the landscape forms a strong foundation of protected lands, including the George Washington and Monongahela National Forests as well as over 30,000 acres of state lands.

The Highlands and Kittatinny Ridge region is one of the most ecologically intact, heavily forested, topographically varied and least developed landscapes in the Mid–Atlantic. This nearly 800,000-acre territory is highly diverse, spanning several geologic features that include the eastern Pocono plateau, the Kittatiny Ridge, the Great Limestone Valley and the New Jersey Highlands. The region’s large intact forests play a critical role in recharging aquifers and streams supplying water to the Delaware River.

Through the Resilient Landscapes Initiative, OSI will provide $5.5 million in capital grants within the four areas. OSI will award matching grants to projects that permanently protect resilient habitat through the acquisition of land or easements. Through the Request for Proposals released today, OSI will solicit grant proposals from all four areas through a competitive process and, with the help of an advisory committee, review applications against ecological and transactional criteria. Proposals from this inaugural round will be due in August, and additional rounds will be announced approximately every six to nine months through September 2015.

OSI will also further enhance the capacity of land trusts and public agencies to respond to climate change through focused outreach and education efforts. Grants and technical assistance will be available to help land trusts and public agencies in focus areas integrate resiliency science into their conservation plans.

 

 


 

 

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