Research & Policy

OSI’s Role in Promoting Land as a Climate Solution (2019)

There is growing consensus among scientists, planners, and other experts: land has a critical role to play in the fight against climate change. And, by choosing the lands that best support wildlife, mitigate floods, absorb pollutants, and filter stormwater, land trusts are on the frontlines of this battle.

Yet just a few years ago, the land trust community was still uncertain of its role around climate change. When launching the Resilient Landscapes Initiative in 2014, OSI conducted a survey that found only 28 percent of leading land trusts were aware of and incorporating climate change into their planning and communication.

In response, OSI, with funding and partnership from the Land Trust Alliance, created and distributed a science and communications guide, provided catalyst grants, and hosted workshops to help a growing number of land trusts incorporate climate change into their long-term land acquisition plans (see a five-year retrospective of the Northeast Resilient Landscape Initiative here).

The Alliance, replicating many of these education and outreach practices on a national level, subsequently made climate change one of its signature initiatives. Case studies developed by the Alliance in collaboration with OSI also demonstrate how land trusts in Maine, New Hampshire, and Massachusetts were able to harness and implement climate planning for long-term impact.

In 2019, OSI and the Alliance re-surveyed land trusts in three northern New England states to measure their progress. Today, 85 percent of land trusts say they understand their role in climate resilience, and 60 percent report that their strategic conservation planning has become more climate-focused in the last three years.

'Northern New England Land Trusts & Climate' Survey

The results demonstrate the remarkable degree to which land trusts have embraced resilience science as a guiding principle for land protection.

View Survey

“The Land Trust Alliance is thrilled to see such widespread uptake of climate change science and considerations from land trusts in the region,” said Kelly Watkinson, program manager for the Alliance’s Land and Climate Program. “We commend OSI for their leadership and for laying the groundwork for an evolution that continues to spread.”

The results demonstrate the remarkable degree to which land trusts in this region have embraced resilience science as a guiding principle for land protection, and, with assistance from OSI, partners, and leading funders like Jane’s Trust Foundation and Doris Duke Charitable Foundation, developed the capacity to integrate the science while communicating the climate benefits of their work.

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