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Open Space Institute Paper Demonstrates How Forest Protection Fights Climate Change

NEW YORK, NY (Feb. 11, 2021)—The Open Space Institute (OSI) today unveiled a guide aimed at helping practitioners and policymakers take on the challenges of climate change through strategic, carbon-capturing forest protection. The new resource provides leadership on how to implement the Biden administration’s recently announced plan to conserve 30 percent of U.S. land and waters by the year 2030 to leverage natural climate solutions, protect biodiversity, and slow extinction rates through carbon-friendly protection and management of conservation lands.

The guide, Meeting the Challenge of Climate Change: How Land Trusts, Policymakers, and Public Agencies Can Achieve Carbon Goals through Strategic Forestland Protection (accessible here), provides criteria for the selection, completion, and successful management of land protection projects for the successful capture and storage of carbon. Developed in consultation with scientists and experts at American Forests, The Nature Conservancy, and the Land Trust Alliance, the knowledge distilled in the guide will be an invaluable resource in deciding where to invest limited land protection dollars.

“Strategic forest conservation is a critical tool and one of our most effective solutions when it comes to combatting climate change,” said Peter Howell, OSI executive vice president. “This report provides a path forward for the next generation of climate-conscious conservation, and a roadmap for how to help make President Biden's plans for protection of 30 percent of lands and waters by 2030 a reality. By following these guidelines, state and federal agencies along with their nonprofit and tribal partners can play a critical role in addressing the climate crisis."

'Meeting the Challenge of Climate Change' Report

OSI’s report is part of a vanguard and growing national effort to increase the use of strategic land conservation to combat climate change while supporting job creation.

Read the Report

When designing the guide, experts targeted leaders such as the eastern Climate Alliance states, a growing coalition of 25 states committed to achieving emissions reductions set by the Paris climate accord.

“This will help governments at all levels, including the U.S. Climate Alliance states, to develop concrete plans for deploying land protection and management as tools for mitigating and adapting to climate change,” said Jad Daley, American Forests president and CEO. “The resources and ideas found here will provide a clear framework for identifying conservation opportunities with high potential for carbon sequestration and resilience, and how to facilitate management of these lands to capture their full climate potential.”

Also critical to achieving climate goals are the nation’s approximately 1,000 land trusts, who have supported the voluntary conservation of over 56 million acres. Land trusts are often embedded in the communities where they work and ensure conservation is locally led and relevant while providing critical climate outcomes.

“This report will further guide and inspire land trusts as they continue to take actions to address climate change,” said Andrew Bowman, Land Trust Alliance president & CEO. “Land conservation and land trusts are key components of the nation’s evolving strategy to address climate change, as the new report from Open Space Institute makes clear. I encourage land trusts to embrace the strategies and tactics presented in the report as they seek to harness the full potential of conservation in combatting climate change.”

OSI’s report is part of a vanguard and growing national effort to increase the use of strategic land conservation to combat climate change while supporting job creation.

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

According to the latest IPCC report, dramatic steps must be taken now to reduce global carbon dioxide emissions before 2030 — and then achieve carbon neutrality by 2050 — in order to avoid continued and irreversible damage to the U.S. economy, environment, and human health and wellbeing. The report urges targeting protection to sites with the greatest carbon storage by 2050 and provides detailed resources for achieving that goal.

In 2019, forests in the United States stored 59 billion metric tons of carbon in the trees, roots, soils, and forest products — the equivalent of more than 33 years of U.S. emissions. Additionally, every year, forests remove 14 percent of the country’s carbon dioxide emissions, equal to removing more than 673 million cars from the road.

However, with nearly one million acres of forestland being lost to development and other uses yearly — the equivalent of more than 100 acres of forest each hour — it is imperative that the nation act quickly to better protect and manage its forests, in order to stem such rapid loss. Land protection is often the first step towards ensuring lands are maximizing carbon potential through good management.

This report was made possible with support from the Doris Duke Charitable Foundation, Jane’s Trust Foundation, and Daniel Hildreth.

Additionally, the report builds on OSI’s Resilient Landscapes Initiative (RLI), which helped the land trust community understand and protect “climate resilient” lands across the eastern US. From 2013 to 2020, OSI through the RLI also disseminated science and resources to help land trusts assemble vast networks of “climate-resilient” lands. These places will be more likely to harbor sensitive plants and animals, even as the climate changes. Through the RLI Catalyst program, OSI also integrated climate science into more than 40 conservation plans by land trusts and public-private partnerships and disseminated training materials and case studies to more than 1,300 practitioners.

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