Southeast Targeted for Conservation Funding
Southeast region chosen for landmark conservation initiative to protect resilient habitat in the face of climate change.
NEW YORK, NY — August 13, 2013 — The Open Space Institute is pleased
to announce the extension of its Resilient Landscape Initiative to the
southeastern United States, and the selection of the Southern Cumberlands as the
first focus area in the region in which OSI will make land capital grants to
protect resilient wildlife habitat.
Resilient sites are natural places
likely to withstand the growing impact of climate change and to offer refuge to
a diverse array of plants and animals. New scientific research undertaken by
The Nature Conservancy identifies the most resilient sites in selected
southeastern states (TNC report, Resilient Sites for
Terrestrial Conservation in the Southeast).
Through a $6.2 million grant from the
Doris Duke Charitable Foundation (DDCF), OSI is launching the Southeast Resilient
Landscapes Fund with a first round of re-grants for land acquisition in the
Southern Cumberlands (see Request for Proposals). This area, selected for its
highly resilient landscapes, contains large forest blocks and extensive
underground cave systems supporting rich animal and plant diversity. Both are
threatened with high rates of habitat loss due to development, fragmentation,
conversion and, increasingly, climate change.
“We recognize the pivotal role that
strategic private land conservation can play in the Southeast in protecting
some of the nation’s best examples of resilient habitat,” said Andrew Bowman,
program director for the environment at the Doris Duke Charitable Foundation. “We
are pleased to support the groundbreaking science of The Nature Conservancy and
the Open Space Institute’s translation and application of that science to drive
strategic conservation on the ground.”
This fall, in addition to the Southern
Cumberlands, OSI, with help from a group of science advisors, will select two to three
additional areas in the Southeast where it will make additional re-grants for
land protection projects that facilitate wildlife adaptation to climate change.
Using smaller “Catalyst Grants,” OSI will also provide land trusts and other
organizations with assistance in planning and mapping to utilize new climate
science in their land protection work.
science provides a new organizing principle that will help focus people on the
places that will matter for conservation long into the future,” said Dr. Jon
Evans, Sewanee’s Assistant Provost for Environmental Stewardship &
Sustainability. Evans, a biology
professor who also serves on the OSI’s science advisory committee, believes
that “by putting the new science front and center, the Initiative adds another
layer of imperativeness to land conservation work.”
Under a previous $6M grant from
DDCF, OSI has been making land capital re-grants and Catalyst Grants in the
Northeast since 2012 (see link to description of the northeastern
focus areas, as well as capital and planning grants made to date). 2,065 acres of resilient habitat have been protected in the Northeast, and 7 organizations have incorporated resilience science in various public and nonprofit conservation plans with the support of OSI Catalyst Grants.
“With a changing climate, land
trusts shouldn’t prioritize lands to conserve based only on where biodiversity
is rich today. We need to identify places that are most likely to retain or
attract biodiversity tomorrow as well,” said Peter Howell, OSI’s executive vice
president. “While climate change is creating a lot of uncertainty, this new
science goes a long way toward helping us find those enduring places that truly
merit permanent protection.”
The Cumberlands was selected as a first
site for investment because of its complex and connected limestone topography,
which is unparalleled in the Southeast. The undulating landscape of coves,
slopes cliffs and valleys provides a diversity of microclimates where wildlife
can adjust to changing temperatures. The underlying limestone geology provides
preferential habitat to over 600 rare species and yet is largely unprotected.
Over 50% of limestone areas are developed or used for agriculture, while only
3% are protected.
The Open Space Institute has been
active over the past decade helping to conserve land in the Southeast. Through
its loans and grants, OSI has helped to protect more than 20,000 acres of land
in western North Carolina, northwest Georgia and Alabama. It also recently co-acquired,
with The Nature Conservancy, and protected the 2,200-acre Fairlawn tract in coastal
South Carolina, which is expected to become an addition to the Francis Marion
The Resilient Landscapes Initiative
builds on earlier work in the Southern Cumberlands where OSI has helped to
conserve 11,700 acres of land in Alabama, Georgia and Tennessee through its Southern
Cumberland Land Protection Fund, supported by the Lyndhurst and
Benwood Foundations and the Merck Family Fund.
Executive Vice President
Conservation Capital Programs
For information about the Southeast Resilient Landscapes Fund, including
the first round of funding in the Southern Cumberlands, please contact David
Ray, OSI’s Southeast Field Coordinator, at email@example.com, or by calling him at 828-450-0138.
You may also find more information
about the Resilient Landscapes Initiative at: www.osiny.org/reslientlandscapes.