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Influence for Good: State of Maine Incorporates Open Space Institute Climate Strategies into Land Protection Efforts

Image Credit: Jerry Monkman

PORTLAND, Maine (Feb. 16, 2023)—With a growing number of states racing to reduce greenhouse emissions and increase carbon capture, many climate experts are advising on ways to harness forests as an essential part of the solution. This movement is finding success in Maine, whose expansive woodlands have long been key to the state’s economy, its culture, and its very identity.

For more than 20 years, OSI has been a successful, skilled, and reliable conservation partner in Maine, supporting the conservation of more than a million acres to protect clean water, expand recreational opportunities, maintain wildlife habitat, and strengthen its communities. Through targeted grants, OSI has also nourished fledgling local efforts to integrate climate-oriented land management into conservation strategies on the ground.

With 20 million acres of woodlands covering 90 percent of the state’s landmass, Maine naturally offsets 75 percent of its greenhouse gas emissions through the process of forest growth. Seeing an immense opportunity for harnessing natural climate solutions, OSI staff are providing one-on-one technical assistance to Land for Maine’s Future (LMF), the state’s primary land protection funding program. OSI’s help comes at a critical time, as staffers update the criteria governing the allocation of $40 million in grants to raise-up projects with benefits such as climate resilience.

“We knew we had a critical role to play in achieving the goals in the Climate Action Plan, so we turned to our colleagues at the Open Space Institute,” said Sarah Demars, Director of LMF. “As a leader in integrating climate science into practice through their grant programs and training efforts, OSI is a trusted partner with the expertise we needed.”

Gleaning recommendations from its work on the successful Appalachian Landscape Protection Fund, OSI provided targeted and data-driven recommendations on conserving places most likely to harbor plants and animals as the climate changes, and ensuring conservation of rare and endangered habitat types. These new climate-focused criteria were approved by the LMF board at the end of 2022 and went live in this year’s Request for Proposals.

Looking ahead, OSI and LMF will work together to address other climate issues, such as developing long-term solutions for the state to increase uptake of forest carbon. And as other states look toward reducing their emissions, OSI is eyeing other opportunities to share its expertise and share lessons from Maine’s example.

“OSI commends Land for Maine Future for their foresight. By adopting these new criteria, Maine is leading the way for other state and federal agencies to see that land protection is a critical climate change solution,” said Abby Weinberg, OSI’s Director of Research. “We are honored to work with states like Maine to collectively address climate change through smart, effective land protection.”

OSI thanks Jane’s Trust Foundation and the J.M. Kaplan Fund for the support of this work.

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