Photo Credit: Jerry Monkman

Catalyst Grants: Kindling Climate-Responsive Conservation

Physical-and-Biological-Diversity Chart Mark-Anderson NERL

Support for the Northeast Resilient Landscapes Initiative Catalyst Grant program has been provided by a lead grant from the Doris Duke Charitable Trust. In New England, generous support has been provided by Jane’s Trust. In New York, funding has been provided by the New York State Conservation Partnership Program (NYSCPP) and New York’s Environmental Protection Fund, administered by the Land Trust Alliance

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NEW YORK, NY — March 10, 2016 —OSI's Catalyst Grant Program provides technical assistance and small grants ($5,000 to $35,000) to support innovative research and planning projects to help build the knowledge base land trusts and public agencies need to safeguard plants and animals in the face of climate change. The Catalyst program is part of the Resilient Landscapes Initiative, which advances the practical application of climate science to land conservation and includes conservation dollars for the permanent protection of exemplary, climate-resilient lands from Maine to Alabama.

From 2013 to 2015, OSI made 12 Catalyst grants to 10 organizations comprising more than 35 groups in six states across the Northeast. In 2016, OSI is expanding its Catalyst program.  In partnership with the Conservation Trust of North Carolina, we are offering the first planning grants in the Southeast.  We are also teaming up with CTNC and the Land Trust Alliance to offer a suite of in-person training and technical assistance services to small and mid-sized land trusts interested in climate-responsive conservation. Complementing these partnerships, OSI plans to release Conserving Nature in a Changing Climate: A Guide for Land Trusts in the Northeast, a how-to guide for applying climate science to land protection.

Here are some snapshots of this first group of grantees’ projects and results, “traveling” north to south from the Northeast’s highest peaks down to the lowlands of New Jersey. It also includes “deeper dives”: links to reports and other media that offer more detailed looks at grantee research: methods, lessons learned, and future plans. Click on the organization’s name to jump to its project summary.

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New England

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Androscoggin River

Appalachian Mountain Club (AMC)
Maine, New Hampshire, Vermont, and New York, $20,890

AMC incorporated climate science into its ongoing conservation-priority assessments, performing a resilience analysis of high-elevation areas (above 2,700 feet) in Maine, New Hampshire, Vermont, and New York -- critical habitat for wildlife species of concern. It also analyzed northern New Hampshire’s Androscoggin Headwaters and the nearby Western Maine Mountains, a region stretching from the White Mountains to Moosehead Lake and the northern Boundary Mountains, to identify under-protected sites and potential corridors to conserve so plants and animals can shift ranges as the climate changes.

Outcomes: Unexpectedly, Maine’s iconic Mt. Katahdin scored relatively low for landform complexity, a component of resilience that provides options for animals and plants. However, AMC identified biologically important and highly resilient areas in the northern Maine mountains to target for protection. They later provided a report and mapping data to land trusts, state agencies and other potential partners on emerging conservation opportunities.

Contact: David Publicover, Senior Staff Scientist/Assistant Director of Research, dpublicover@outdoors.org

Deeper Dive:Watch a mini webinar about the project narrated by David Publicover

Mount Agamenticus to the Sea (MtA2C) Conservation Initiative and State of Maine
Southern Coastal Maine, $19,000

The 10 member organizations of MtA2C, a regional conservation partnership (RCP), collaborated with the Maine Department of Inland Fisheries and Wildlife, the state Natural Areas Program, and The Nature Conservancy of Maine to assess the relative climate resilience and vulnerability of the 140 focus areas in the State Wildlife Action Plan (SWAP). Integrating the Conservancy’s resilience data and information about species vulnerability, species priorities, and anticipated sea-level rise, they studied landscape conditions at two different scales: statewide and in the eight-town coastal MtA2C geography -- the most biologically diverse region in Maine, harboring large numbers of at-risk species.

Outcomes: In addition to confirming the resilience of many of the state’s focus areas for conserving biodiversity, the partners identified a subset of sites that are important for resilience but have not been targeted in the plan, as well as other focus areas that are expected to be particularly vulnerable to climate change. Locally, MtA2C’s in-depth analysis in and around southern Maine validated some priorities and suggested new ones, such as places in the northern portion housing under-protected geologies.

The conservation partners and the state’s SWAP outreach program will use the project results to inform conservation planning and communications with area towns and land trusts and serve as a pilot for similar efforts in other parts of the state.

Contact: Karen Young, MtA2C coordinator, kyoung@mta2c.org; Andy Cutko, ecologist, Maine Department of Conservation, Andrew.Cutko@maine.gov

Deeper Dive: Read short case studies from MtA2C and the State of Maine about their work.

Watch a mini webinar about the project narrated by Andy Kutko, Justin Schlawin, and Karen Young

Bear-Paw Regional Greenways
South-Central New Hampshire, $7,500

Bear-Paw’s grant allowed them to incorporate climate-resilience data into the local Natural Resource Inventory maps that inform their strategic conservation plan. Their original plan, completed more than 10 years ago, identifies the location and condition of the region’s most important ecological, biological, and water resources, including wildlife habitat, wetlands, and agricultural lands. The revised maps allowed Bear-Paw to better understand the climate-resilient characteristics of existing focus areas in light of landscape complexity and local connectedness. This information validated and focused their past land-acquisition priorities and served as a pilot for broader application of climate considerations throughout New Hampshire, including their future use by the state Fish and Game Department.

Outcomes: While the results confirmed most of Bear-Paw's conservation planning and acquisition priorities, it led to adjustments in some areas. The organization distributed the information and a set of large-scale maps to its 11 member towns for their use in developing conservation plans. Subsequently, Bear-Paw protected two climate-resilient properties in the relatively developed town of Hookset that both helped increase connectivity for wildlife and secured more space for outdoor recreation.

Contact: Dan Kern, executive director, info@bear-paw.org

Deeper Dive: Read a Q&A interview with Bear-Paw’s Dan Kern about gaining buy-in from stakeholders for resilience planning and their conservation project in Hooksett.

Vermont Land Trust
Vermont, $7,000

Vermont Land Trust (VLT) assisted the Vermont Fish and Wildlife Department in updating the State Wildlife Action Plan using TNC and regional datasets. The goal: to identify a set of conservation priorities that capture each of five key natural features that help to maintain and enhance ecological function across the landscape and thus help safeguard biological diversity in a changing climate. They then pinpointed a set of "responsibility landscapes,” important and/or rare geophysical settings (such as low-elevation limestone) that are abundant in Vermont but not well protected.

Outcomes: VLT prepared a guide to state and regional climate datasets, including the responsibility landscapes. The guide will enable VLT, state agencies, and conservation planners to use the data to inform future land protection and planning.

Contact:  Liz Thompson, director of conservation science, liz@vlt.org

Deeper Dive: Read Vermont Conservation Design: Maintaining and Enhancing an Ecologically Functional Landscape, VLT’s report on their approach.
Watch a mini webinar about the project narrated by Liz Thompson

Massachusetts Audubon Society, Inc. (Mass Audubon)
Massachusetts; $10,000

Cover Losing Ground 2014 CatalystThis grant supported Mass Audubon in studying the status of climate-resilient lands statewide. Collaborating with colleagues at The Nature Conservancy of Massachusetts, Mass Audubon analyzed land characteristics and development patterns in climate-resilient lands. The research found that 1.4 million of the Commonwealth’s 5 million acres are resilient to climate impacts, yet less than half of these lands are protected.

Outcomes: The results were incorporated into the fifth edition of Mass Audubon’s Losing Ground: Planning for Resilience report (2014), which quantifies recent land development and protection trends in Massachusetts to help conservationists, town planners, and agencies to improve planning and advocacy.

Contact: Jeff Collins, director of ecological management, jcollins@massaudubon.org
Deeper Dive: Read the Losing Ground report.

Grant II, Massachusetts, $16,000

This additional grant allowed Mass Audubon to integrate its statewide terrestrial resilience data with the biodiversity-centered BioMap2 dataset, local ownership records and other relevant statistics to develop a parcel-based conservation planning tool. The Mapping & Prioritizing Parcels for Resilience (MAPPR) is an interactive web map with which users can identify an area of interest and use various pre-calculated or customized filters to identify appropriate land-protection opportunities.

Outcomes: The planning tool is now available at the organization’s website for use by the state’s 150 land trusts and various government agencies. Mass Audubon also worked with state agency staff to integrate the data they compiled into the Energy and Environmental Affairs Landscape Partnership Grants program, which provides funding to protect large blocks of land.

Contact: Jeff Collins, jcollins@massaudubon.org
Deeper Dive:  Explore the MAPPR tool at the Mass Audubon website.

Watch a mini webinar about the project narrated by Jeff Collins.

Highstead and North Quabbin Regional Landscape Partnership
North-Central Massachusetts, $10,000

Highstead Planning Session Catalyst Grant

This grant enabled Highstead to pilot a three-part workshop designed to help regional conservation partnerships (RCPs)  expand their traditional land protection work to include the latest climate science. The workshop series helped 16 of North Quabbin’s diverse partners to reach consensus about conservation priorities in their service area (which includes extensive forested areas surrounding the reservoir that provides Boston’s drinking water). It then trained them to use The Nature Conservancy’s climate resilience datasets to evaluate local priorities and then use that information to create a digital map that spotlights climate-resilient areas to target for future conservation projects.  

Outcomes: Highstead expanded its capacity to assist RCPs across New England in climate planning. North Quabbin discovered three new focus areas that were highly resilient, and are now considering innovative multi-landowner initiatives to protect them. The members also led a ground-truthing hike of a resilient area for other partners and created user-friendly informational brochures and events tailored to town boards, landowners, and the public.

Contact: Bill Labich, senior conservationist, Highstead, blabich@highstead.net
Sarah Wells, NQRLP coordinator, wells@mountgrace.org

Deeper Dive:  Read a handout North Quabbin produced for towns and the general public about their climate map.
Watch a mini webinar about the project narrated by Bill Labich and Sarah Wells.

Grant II, Massachusetts, Vermont, and Maine, $34,000

Building on their earlier project with North Quabbin, Highstead is using lessons from their climate-planning workshops to assist two relatively new RCPs – the Massachusetts-Vermont Woodland Partnership and the Downeast Research and Education Network -- in integrating resilience science and data into their first conservation plans.

Outcomes: The project will produce two new conservation plans for protecting climate-resilient sites within the RCPs’ service areas. Highstead will then develop a guidance document to walk other RCPs through the technical and practical issues related to integrating climate into conservation plans.

Contact: Bill Labich, blabich@highstead.net

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NEW YORK

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In addition to making conventional grants, OSI has partnered with three New York-based conservation organizations on projects funded under an LTA Partnership Grant, designed to support New York’s land trusts in understanding and applying climate science.

Wildlife Conservation Society (WCS)
Adirondack Mountains, New York, $5,000

Indian Lake photo Carl Heilman IIWCS used climate-resilience data to identify under-protected resilient habitats and geology types within the 6-million-acre Adirondack landscapes. Though the Adirondacks are the largest protected area in the continental United States, WCS’s analysis showed that while high-elevation granite sites are largely conserved, low-elevation geologies within the Park are significantly under-protected, and 60% of climate-resilient forest “hotspots” in the Champlain region are still in private hands. This situation places wildlife in these settings at risk.

Outcomes: The results of their work are being used as a blueprint for setting land-conservation priorities in the region and to inform local land-use planning in sites with critical under-protected habitat types. WCS is working with local land trusts to engage property owners in areas that overlap land identified as resilient or ecologically important.

Contact:  Michale Glennon, Adirondack landscape science coordinator, mglennon@wcs.org

Deeper Dive: Watch a mini webinar about the project narrated by Michale Glennon

Columbia Land Conservancy (CLC)
Hudson Valley, New York, $5,000

CLC is developing a new conservation plan that integrates climate-resilience science with the results of fieldwork by conservation biologists from Hudsonia Ltd. to characterize the habitats in CLC’s service area, Columbia County. Trained by OSI, CLC’s staff is using map-based data to apply a climate- resilience lens to refine their conservation priorities for working lands, biodiversity and recreation.

Expected Outcomes: CLC will develop an updated strategic plan that incorporates climate change considerations and a user’s guide summarizing lessons and recommendations from its experience.

Contact: Lee Alexander, Senior Lands Project Manager, lalexander@scenichudson.org

Black Rock Forest Consortium
Hudson Highlands, New York, $5,000

Black Rock is ground-truthing climate-resilient sites within Legacy Ridge, a wildlife corridor linking Black Rock Forest with Schunnemunk Mountain (a unique, 1,700-foot double-crested peak). The area is critical for connecting central and northern Appalachian sites to facilitate movement by many species of threatened and endangered wildlife in a rapidly developing area as the climate changes.

Expected Outcomes: Black Rock will rank parcel conservation values based on resilience and suitability for 40 target species, and then translate OSI’s GIS data and Black Rock’s local knowledge of target species occurrence and movements into a field-based guide to help land trusts protect resilient features on this landscape.

Contact: Bill Schuster, executive director, wschuster@blackrockforest.org

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NEW JERSEY

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New Jersey Conservation Foundation (NJCF)
New Jersey, $10,000

NJCF staff, working with Ecological Solutions, Inc., a natural-resources consulting firm, performed field sampling to understand the relationship between climate resilience of forested sites and land-use history. In particular, they examined links between soil alteration resulting from past agricultural use at these sites and the presence of invasive plants. Based on the results, the Foundation advocates that practitioners consider field conditions based on an area’s land-use history so they can more accurately identify the most resilient parcels unlikely to harbor invasives.

Outcomes:  The project showed that past land use practice has a large impact on current biodiversity and should be considered along with resilience. It also produced new information about forest soils and plant species on resilient sites. This information will assist NJCF and other land trusts and state agencies in differentiating among climate-resilient examples of low-elevation fertile sites, such as the Limestone Valley in New Jersey, where agriculture was once predominant.

Contact: Emile DeVito,manager of science and stewardship, emile@njcf.org

 

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