Stories

Funding Forests for Our Future

Stretching 1,500 miles from Alabama to Canada, the Appalachian Mountains are home to the world’s largest broadleaf forest. This invaluable natural resource is responsible for storing one million metric tons of carbon per year — most of the United States’ forest carbon storage capacity.

Yet despite the region’s importance in the fight against climate change, the Appalachians face a growing barrage of threats from unplanned development, unsustainable forest management, and extractive energy practices.

To guard this vital landscape, the Open Space Institute launched the Appalachian Landscapes Protection Fund in 2021. Envisioned as an $18 million pooled philanthropic fund and initiated with seed capital from the Doris Duke Charitable Foundation, this first-of-its-kind effort aims to help Appalachian forests counter the twin crises of climate change and biodiversity loss.

“Our forests and our future both depend on the continued protection of the Appalachian Mountains,” says Peter Howell, OSI executive vice president and head of its Conservation Capital program. “With this new fund, OSI continues to lead the way with innovative, science-based efforts to protect the places that will matter under a changing climate.”

The fund is intended to conserve 50,000 critically important acres in three focus areas: the southern Appalachians, the mid-Atlantic, and the northern Appalachians. This sizable amount of acreage will initially store an estimated 4.25 million metric tons of carbon dioxide equivalent, per year — offsetting the emissions of 3.5 million gas-fueled cars. In subsequent years, the land, with its additional protected, intact forests, will potentially sequester another 400,000 metric tons annually.

Building on OSI’s on-the-ground experience and conservation expertise, the fund also aims to integrate climate science into local land protection efforts. OSI is working with private and public partners to reduce climate risks for communities disproportionately affected by flooding and other climate-induced threats.

In the inaugural grant round of 13 projects, OSI first provided funding to Wildlands Conservancy for its Penrose Swamp Barrens project in northeastern Pennsylvania. Home to rare pine-oak barrens and wetlands, the newly protected 2,700-acre property hosts abundant biodiversity and unique ecology.

“This is a resounding victory for us locally,” says Christopher Kocher, president of Wildlands Conservancy. “But it’s even more gratifying to know that this project is part of a larger effort to save the Appalachian Mountains and all they provide for our nation in the fight against climate change.”

As we tackle the greatest environmental challenge of our time, OSI’s Appalachian Landscapes Protection Fund is helping to create forward momentum for land protection and setting an example for progress.

OSI’s Appalachian Landscapes Protection Fund is made possible thanks to major support from the Doris Duke Charitable Foundation and additional funding from the Footprint Foundation, Jane’s Trust, Lookout Foundation, Lyndhurst Foundation, McKee Family, Partridge Foundation, Richard King Mellon Foundation, Riverview Foundation, Tucker Foundation, William Penn Foundation, and ZG Foundation.

Next Story From the Field

Connectivity for Wildlife and People

Across the East Coast, OSI uses strategic land protection and conservation planning to protecting and connecting green corridors in some of the region's most densely populated areas.