Potomac Headwaters photo Tom Cogill
OSI is awarding grants to four land trusts engaged in complementary educational and
training programs. Learn more about two of the programs.
NEW YORK, NY — September 23, 2013 —Two New England organizations receiving grants from the Open
Space Institute’s Resilient Landscapes Initiative are spreading the word about
the protection of climate-resilient habitat—a potential game-changer as
scientists and conservationists seek to protect the lands best suited for long-term
adaptation to changes in climate.
“Natural strongholds”—one of the terms used by The Nature
Conservancy (TNC) to describe resilient landscapes—have demonstrated their
ability over time to recover from natural disturbances such as tornadoes,
hurricanes or drought. TNC scientists have studied these places for more than a
decade, and now believe that by connecting and conserving natural strongholds, land
trusts can help wildlife and ultimately humans withstand the effects of climate
TNC’s scientific data as its basis and with the generous support of the Doris
Duke Charitable Foundation, OSI launched its Resilient Landscapes Initiative earlier
this year to direct conservation funding to these “resilient” places. OSI’s
initiative targets landscapes that, due to their size and broad range of
features—slopes, valleys, ravines, caves and lowlands, for example—exhibit climate-resilient
Fund will award $5.5 million in capital grants to conservation groups to support
land protection projects in four different landscapes throughout the Northeast
and Mid-Atlantic. OSI is also making educational grants to organizations positioned
as thought leaders, whose outreach and application of the science demonstrates
the importance of protecting resilient places.
“While direct land acquisition is an important piece of this
effort, we can only affect a very small portion of the unprotected resilient
lands in the Northeast with that tool,” said Peter Howell, OSI’s executive vice
president. “Through our education and outreach initiative, we can aim to
integrate this science into a land trust or even a state agency’s conservation
priorities, creating impact at a much greater scale.”
Society (Mass Audubon) and New Hampshire-based Bear-Paw Regional Greenways, along with Highstead
and the North Quabbin Regional Conservation Partnership and the New Jersey Conservation Foundation
have all received such educational grants.
In Massachusetts, a densely populated state of 6 million
people, the realization—first published in Mass Audubon’s well-received Losing Ground report—that 40 acres were being lost every day to
development led state leaders to institute high levels of conservation funding.
With those all-important dollars in place, land trusts and state agencies in
Massachusetts have protected 130,000 acres in the last six years, bolstering
the sixth-largest state park system in the U.S.
Seizing that momentum, Mass Audubon is updating Losing Ground with new analysis
identifying not just the most important resilient landscapes in Massachusetts,
but those most in danger of being affected by development. With OSI’s funding and some down-scaling of the data, which is being done as part of the project by the Massachusetts chapter of The Nature Conservancy, the organization will be able to combine resiliency data with its own on-the-ground analysis to pinpoint priority conservation lands—saving the state and its 150 active land trusts the time and cost of performing such an analysis independently.
“This will have tremendous importance going forward,” said
Bob Wilber, Mass Audubon’s director of land conservation. “One of the many benefits
is that conservation groups can focus on the land that’s going to be most
responsive to climate change, particularly from a staff and resource capacity
Because of the excellent reception earned by previous
editions of Losing Ground, Mass
Audubon’s research stands to significantly increase the visibility of this up
and coming science.
will be a platform where we can really teach people about resilient landscapes,
and build (their protection) where it needs building,” said Jeff Collins, the director
of ecological management at Mass Audubon. “The timing is perfect, it really is.”
Elsewhere in New England, Bear-Paw Regional Greenways is
using an OSI grant to revise its conservation blueprint to focus on resilient
lands in the southern New Hampshire region in which it works. State leaders,
already engaged with an active conservation community in New Hampshire, have
also expressed interest in learning how Bear-Paw uses the resiliency data as
they update their own State Wildlife Action Plan.
“The environment for conservation in New Hampshire is really
strong,” said Emily Preston, a wildlife biologist in the New Hampshire Fish and
Game Department’s Nongame and Endangered Wildlife Program. “We have a lot of
great land trusts that are doing very thoughtful work. Now, as we revise our
wildlife action plan maps, we want to include climate resiliency into it, so it
will be much more integrated.”
The 214,000-acre Bear-Paw region is a unique hotbed for
biodiversity, yet much of it is at risk. Population growth and development threaten
to fragment and degrade essential habitats. Water, in particular, is vulnerable
to pollution, altered sediment flow and other cumulative impacts associated
Bear-Paw’s project will incorporate resiliency data to identify
the areas with an above-average ability to maintain ecological functions and a
diversity of native species, even as the species composition changes in
response to climate. Using that lens may help ensure that the properties
protected today will still be valuable conservation areas 100 years from now.
“Our region includes a lot of priority areas that are
already highlighted in the New Hampshire wildlife action plan, and we hope that
our natural resource mapping project will help build the case for the importance
of protecting land here,” said Daniel Kern, Bear-Paw’s executive director.
With half a dozen acquisition projects on tap and an educational
grant program complementing those efforts, OSI’s Resiliency Fund is ahead of
the curve in preserving wildlife habitat that will endure through changes in
“Ensuring that species can move across the landscape is key
to the long-term health of our ecosystem, even as the composition of species
changes due to climate change,” Preston said. “Climate resiliency data is helping
inform where to protect habitat to allow for that movement.”