Autumn Trees

Open Space Institute Expands Appalachian Landscapes Protection Fund to Support Conservation of Climate Critical Pennsylvania Forests

Image Credit: Greg Miller

NEW YORK, NY (July 27, 2022)—Seeking to further harness the capacity for strategic land protection to counter climate change and its impacts, the Open Space Institute (OSI) today announced a major new effort of its Appalachian Landscapes Protection Fund (ALPF) to conserve key forested areas in western and central Pennsylvania.

The new $4 million expansion, catalyzed with a $2 million commitment of grant and loan funds from the Richard King Mellon Foundation that is being matched by other private funders, seeks to protect forests within a 10-million-acre focus area that contain Pennsylvania’s largest reserves of forest carbon and habitat prized for its ability to serve as a haven for wildlife, even withstanding a changing climate. The targeted area stretches from the Pennsylvania Wilds in the state’s northern tier southward through the Allegheny Front, and from Laurel Highlands to the Maryland border.

“The Open Space Institute is proud of its role in harnessing land protection to secure the forests that are so critical to Pennsylvania and to us all,” said Peter Howell, OSI’s Executive Vice President of Conservation Capital & Research Programs. “Increasingly, science and higher resolution carbon data are highlighting just how important forests are in combatting climate change. OSI sincerely thanks the Richard King Mellon Foundation for its significant commitment, and Doris Duke Charitable Foundation whose early support helped to launch the Fund.”

“The work of the Open Space Institute and other conservation partners have helped to create greater understanding and awareness of the extraordinary ecological value of Pennsylvania’s forests and waters,” said Sam Reiman, Director of the Richard King Mellon Foundation. “Protecting these habitats provides critical refuges for wildlife, while also allowing us to address climate change by storing carbon naturally. We are pleased to partner with the Doris Duke Charitable Foundation and others to protect these important ecosystems in our backyard.”

Nature Forest Trees Fog
Every year, forests remove 14 percent of the country’s carbon dioxide emissions.

Yet despite their critical importance, the region’s forests face significant threats, including development, poor management, and energy extraction.

Fund Criteria

In considering lands in Pennsylvania for conservation, the ALPF is harnessing cutting-edge climate science and decision support tools developed by The Nature Conservancy to identify and protect places that are “climate-resilient” — in that they will continue to protect habitat for sensitive plants and animals, even as the climate changes.

A property’s climate resilience will be the major selection criteria, and within these areas OSI’s ALPF aims to protect places with the highest carbon storage potential by 2050, to help meet Paris Accord climate goals for carbon neutrality. The ALPF will also consider a project’s co-benefits, such as community access, water quality, or flood hazard mitigation.

Recognizing that communities within the focus area struggle with de-population, disinvestment, and poverty, and that the impact of climate change has a disproportionate impact on these communities, the ALPF will lower the required match on acquisition grants to organizations whose leaders identify as Black, Indigenous, and People of Color.

The ALPF is the second large-scale, climate-resilient land protection effort championed by OSI. From 2013-2020, OSI’s Resilient Landscapes Initiative (RLI) also supported by the Doris Duke Charitable Foundation, provided a total of $11 million to conserve 55,000 acres across Eastern U.S. Through the RLI’s “Catalyst Program,” OSI also integrated climate science into more than 41 conservation plans by land trusts and public-private partnerships and disseminated training materials and case studies to more than 1,300 practitioners.

Additionally, the ALPF builds on more than 79 grants and loans to local land trusts and conservation groups, assisting in the protection of more than 27,000 acres of land, that OSI has completed within Pennsylvania.

The Open Space Institute protects scenic, natural, and historic landscapes to provide public enjoyment, conserve habitat and working lands, and sustain communities. Founded in 1974 to protect significant landscapes in New York State, OSI has been a partner in the protection of more than 2.3 million acres in North America. Visit OSI online at

About the Richard King Mellon Foundation: Founded in 1947, the Richard King Mellon Foundation is the largest foundation in Southwestern Pennsylvania, and one of the 50 largest in the world. The Foundation’s 2021 year-end net assets were $3.4 billion, and its Trustees in 2021 disbursed $152 million in grants and Program-Related Investments. The Foundation focuses its funding on six primary program areas, delineated in its 2021-2030 Strategic Plan. Through its Conservation program, the Foundation has helped to conserve more than 4.5 million acres of environmentally precious land in all 50 states.

About the Doris Duke Charitable Foundation: The mission of the Doris Duke Charitable Foundation is to improve the quality of people’s lives through grants supporting the performing arts, environmental conservation, medical research and child well-being, and through preservation of the cultural and environmental legacy of Doris Duke’s properties. The mission of the foundation's Environment Program is to ensure a thriving, resilient environment for wildlife and people, and foster an inclusive, effective conservation movement. For more information, please visit

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