NEW YORK, NY (Jan. 28, 2021)—The Open Space Institute (OSI) today unveiled a new report urging increased efforts among policymakers and the land trust community to harness strategic land protection to mitigate destructive floods nationwide. The findings are intended to highlight the role that land conservation can play in protecting communities, infrastructure, and lives, as flood events become more frequent and destructive as a result of climate change.
The report (a two-page summary is here) showcases a range of scientific and funding opportunities to accelerate the pace of land protection. Also contained in the report are recommendations for land trust practitioners; state, regional, and local government leaders; and others, on the education, planning, and outreach that land trusts need to effectively advance this work.
As the climate changes, coastal areas and inland communities are at risk of serious flood impacts. A 2021 study from Stanford University found that a third of the financial damage caused by flooding in the U.S. over the past three decades — almost $75 billion — can be attributed to excess precipitation caused by climate change. As this problem worsens, some communities are seeking a powerful and cost-effective solution in safeguarding land.
“As extreme weather events caused by climate change are becoming more severe and more frequent, local officials and land trusts are uniquely positioned to play leadership roles in utilizing targeted land protection to defend against flooding destruction in the communities where they live and work,” said Kim Elliman, OSI’s president and CEO. “OSI’s report provides an invaluable path forward for these community leaders to take active steps to prevent and curb the devastating effects of storm-related flooding."
One of the most effective ways to reduce flood impacts to communities is to retain the floodplain forests and wetlands that provide natural defenses against floods. Conservation safeguards the land’s ability to slow and temper flood waters, directs development away from flood-prone areas, and helps to avert future damage. Such protection also has a high return on investment, saving an average of five dollars in avoided flood damage for every dollar spent, according a study by The Nature Conservancy.