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New guide harnesses climate data for climate-resilience planning

NEW YORK, NY (Oct. 25, 2016)—The Open Space Institute (OSI), the Land Trust Alliance and the North Atlantic Landscape Conservation Cooperative (LCC) today 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. It compiles strategies showing how land trust leaders and supporters can seize upon the critical role land conservation plays in helping mitigate and adapt to climate change, by ensuring suitable habitat is available for plants and animals and thoughtfully redirecting development and diminishing associated emissions, among other benefits.

“Strategic private land conservation of forests and other natural lands plays a pivotal role in conserving the resilient landscapes that protect habitat, sequester carbon and contribute to combatting climate change,” said Kim Elliman, OSI’s president and CEO. “Despite the uncertainty of climate change, climate-resilience science goes a long way toward helping us find those enduring places that truly merit permanent protection. Use of sound science is an urgent matter for the land trust community and the greater nation.”

”Land trusts increasingly need resources to help them incorporate climate mitigation and adaptation into their strategic conservation planning,” said Andrew Bowman, the Alliance’s president. “This guide is an excellent example of the technical tools that will provide a science-based roadmap for land trusts working to identify critical areas in need of conservation. The Land Trust Alliance is proud to have contributed to the development of this guide and is happy to host it on our climate website.”

“The North Atlantic LCC is pleased to collaborate with OSI and the Alliance on this important guide to help land trusts make informed decisions in the face of climate change,” said Andrew Milliken, former coordinator for the LCC and currently project leader for the U.S. Fish and Wildlife Service’s Lake Champlain Fish and Wildlife Conservation Office. “The approaches described in the guide for protecting resilient interconnected networks of natural areas will benefit fish, wildlife and plants and the ecosystems upon which they depend. This approach and the success of the LCC depends on federal, state and local partners, including land trusts, working together towards common goals.”

Prioritizing the protection of resilient landscapes

The guide encourages conservation of climate-resilient landscapes. Climate resilience refers to a place’s natural ability to recover from disturbances such as hurricanes, floods and drought, which are expected to increase as the climate changes. Resilient landscapes give a wide range of species area to move in response to shifts in temperature and moisture under climate change. Moreover, forests and other natural features on resilient properties retain excess rainwater, reducing damage from flooding and drought on local businesses and residents.

Protecting forests to sequester carbon

Due to forests’ role in storing greenhouse gas emissions, forest protection is a key strategy for mitigating the effects of climate change. Land conservation has been recognized as a priority under the national climate adaptation strategy, since significant land disturbance, such as development, is a major source of carbon dioxide emissions that can be avoided by land protection.

About the climate resilience guide

Insights for the climate-resilience guide are distilled from a panel of leading scientists and land conservation practitioners, including OSI’s Resilient Landscapes Initiative, a $12 million effort to protect resilient sites and promote the use of the climate-resiliency science across the eastern US; and from the North Atlantic LCC partnership, which is using regional data, mapping and tools to coordinate NGO, federal, state and local governments response to climate change. The climate-resiliency science itself was developed by The Nature Conservancy, the University of Massachusetts-Amherst and the Northeast Climate Science Center.

Generous funding for the resource was provided by the North Atlantic Landscape Conservation Cooperative, Jane’s Trust, the Doris Duke Charitable Foundation and the New York State Conservation Partnership Program. The Nature Conservancy of Canada, the Highstead Foundation, Chesapeake Conservancy and the Wildlife Conservation Society served as advisors.

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