Resilient landscapes map by Bear-Paw Regional Greenways
March 2016 — It’s not
necessary to be a large organization to use and benefit from factoring climate
change into land protection work—or to influence the wider conservation
field. Bear-Paw Regional Greenways,
based in southeastern New Hampshire, is ahead of the curve on doing just that.
With a staff of one (plus an 11-member board) covering its 404-square mile,
11-town service area anchored in and around Bear Brook and Pawtuckaway state
parks, Bear-Paw used a 2013 OSI Catalyst grant to integrate The Nature
Conservancy’s climate resilience datasets into the natural resource inventory
maps that had guided their land conservation plan for a decade.
verified their strategy, increasing their confidence that these natural areas
would remain important as the climate changes. Now Bear-Paw is implementing
what they learned, building a network of resilient lands to protect wildlife
habitat, water, forests and farmland in a region not far from downtown
Manchester, one of the state’s most densely populated areas.
To date, they have completed a
two-phase project funded by OSI Resilient Landscapes Initiative capital grants
that builds directly on historic acquisitions (properties secured through OSI’s
Saving New England’s Wildlife program). The project permanently protects nearly
800 acres of land that ranks very high for ecological resilience and above
average for landform complexity and local connectedness, traits that are likely
to allow plants and animals to persist at a site as the climate changes. The most recent land acquisition project,
known as Hinman Pond II, is a partnership with the New Hampshire Fish and Game
Department to set aside a 190-acre parcel adjacent to 10,000+-acre Bear Brook
State Park. Located in the rapidly developing town of Hooksett, the land
provides open space for wildlife (including some of the most threatened in the
state) and for human recreation.
Dan Kern (left) and Miranda Spencer (right)
OSI Senior Research and Communications Associate Miranda
Spencer interviewed Bear-Paw Executive Director Daniel Kern about how mapping climate resilience continues to
influence the group’s work going forward. Following are edited highlights of
of Adding a “Resilience Screen”
MS: Has your resilience mapping project changed your view of
the area in which you work?
DK: The Natural Resource Inventory maps that resulted from
incorporating the TNC resilience science were an affirmation of the work we had
already started, which was focused primarily on protecting large forest blocks.
We learned that the diversity of the landscape, which is really dry and rocky
and hilly, and some of the largest wetlands in the region -- also make these
areas more resilient.
MS: So having the climate lens adds an extra level of
confidence in identifying the best places to protect?
DK: Yes. We’d previously been working on conservation projects
more from a hunch --trying to identify areas that we think are important in the
region, without a lot of science behind it. So this confirms that hunch.
It’s also helped
us to explain our reasoning to our funders. We can show them scientific
evidence that supports conservation projects in this area, and that permanent
protection of this land can provide valuable habitat into the future,
regardless of what happens to the climate. It assures people that their
investments are sound.
MS: How did you communicate with your board about what the
climate resilience analysis showed? How did they respond?
DK: The board was
interested in the science and happy to include it in our Natural Resources
Inventory to help us identify focus areas. The challenge was in explaining how
we’ve interpreted it. As I say, our study affirmed a lot of what we were doing
already, so we didn’t have to do much convincing. When we place our
conservation focus areas map on top of the raw data from the study, there’s a
lot of overlap, anchored by the same areas, Bear Brook State Park and
Pawtuckaway State Park.
MS: You’ve done a significant amount of outreach to the towns
about your conservation plan. Do you also talk to them about climate change?
DK: We have to ‘sell’
our projects to the towns, which we rely on to support us, so we use our data
to show them the importance of the area. Conservation commissions,
understandably, tend to be driven by local concerns, and are not necessarily
scientifically oriented. So we explain it on a summary level, going over the
theory behind local connectedness and landscape diversity and pointing out those
characteristics in areas where we’re already working, as well as where we hope
MS: Since you completed the resilience mapping study, have any
landowners or towns increased their interest in land protection in order to be
part of the response to climate change?
DK: Yes, we’ve been working on a project in Pittsfield, New
Hampshire where an owner was motivated to donate a conservation easement of
about 300 acres after learning that our study showed that his property was
highly resilient –that is, capable of providing refuge for plants and animals.
Concept to Action
MS: How did your resilience mapping study inform your recent
Hinman Pond II project in the town of Hooksett?
DK: The plan showed that
Hooksett’s “northeast quadrant,” is highly resilient. Protection of this area
was already a goal of the town’s open space plan and the resilience analysis
emphasized we should keep working there.
MS: Did the climate resilience part of the deal influence the
owner’s decision to sell?
A: Not in this
case. The land was purchased from a local company, Manchester Sand and Gravel,
who were attracted by the financial side of the deal and willing to work with
Bear-Paw and the Fish and Game Department, which had identified some sensitive
habitat on their property.
MS: Has raising the topic of resilience lead to additional
climate-responsive work by your partners, or beyond?
DK: Yes! We were one of
the first land trusts to try to integrate this climate lens into a natural
resource inventory. When we were developing our plan, the New Hampshire Fish
and Game Department watched us closely to see how they might use this new
climate resilience data. In the end, they made it a recommendation of their
State Wildlife Action Plan to integrate the same data into their own plan. We
are glad that they did since it shows the continued importance of the region
where we’re working!
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