WASHINGTON, DC (Jan. 19, 2017)-The Land Trust Alliance, in partnership with the Open Space Institute and other organizations, has launched a new program to help land trusts address climate change. Funded by a generous catalyst grant from the Doris Duke Charitable Foundation, the “Land Trust Climate Change Initiative” is a bold new Alliance program that will provide land trusts with the strategies, training and tools they need to both adapt to and mitigate climate change in their land conservation work.
After investing decades of hard work and billions of dollars in conservation in the U.S., land trusts are increasingly concerned about the impacts of climate change. They are seeking tools, resources and training to help them adopt climate adaptation and mitigation practices. They also are asking for help in addressing one of the principal ways that the nation will ultimately mitigate climate change: the buildout of large-scale renewable energy facilities.
The goals of the Initiative are designed to address these needs by:
- Partnering with OSI to deliver training and tools for land trusts that want to incorporate climate science into their acquisition and stewardship planning, thereby increasing the number of land trusts whose strategic conservation plans address climate impacts and promote climate resilience.
- Promoting the use of land to mitigate climate change through the ability of soils and vegetation to absorb and store carbon, in partnership with The Nature Conservancy, Finite Carbon, government partners, and others.
- Empowering land trusts to encourage the buildout of renewable energy facilities while steering the facilities away from sensitive lands through a pilot project in New York, which will help land trusts in other states effectively navigate similar challenges. As part of a larger stakeholder process led by The Nature Conservancy, the New York effort will help shape New York state policy and guidelines related to renewable energy siting.
This news builds on the partnership between OSI, the Land Trust Alliance and the North Atlantic Landscape Conservation Cooperative, which in October unveiled a new, multi-faceted resource encouraging land trusts and their supporters, including local governments, to pursue land protection as a critical strategy in the face of a changing climate. The guide, Conserving Nature in a Changing Climate, is available at climatechange.lta.org and synthesizes the latest climate-resilience science.
The land trust community has a moral obligation to address the climate crisis. And we can help mitigate climate change by doing what we’ve always done: conserving more land and stewarding it effectively. In doing so, we’ll definitively demonstrate our relevance to people and their wellbeing, while simultaneously bringing home significant financial resources to power our land conservation efforts. This new Initiative will enable the land trust community to vigorously go down this path.
How land conservation reduces climate change
The rapid climate change we are experiencing today is caused by greenhouse gases released by human activity. In the atmosphere, these gases trap heat from the sun, essentially over-insulating the Earth. But forests and other undeveloped lands can absorb greenhouse gases, keeping them out of the atmosphere.
Forests, prairies, farmland and other natural habitats absorb approximately 15% of the U.S.’s carbon dioxide emissions. That’s a huge benefit — but one that we stand to lose if we keep converting open land for development.
In fact, land conservation offers a double benefit for the climate. It not only helps absorb greenhouse gases; it also prevents significant greenhouse gas emissions that would result from development — including deforestation, construction, and the additional driving required by poorly planned growth.
Because of these major benefits, the Alliance advocates for climate change policies that will promote and fund land conservation. The Alliance also helps to educate land trusts about opportunities to finance conservation through growing carbon markets.