For communities located along the nearly 5,000 miles of Maine coastline, the threat of climate change is growing increasingly dire. With every passing year, rising sea levels provide new threats to the region’s distinctive ecosystems, including salt marshes and eelgrass beds – weakening their natural abilities to buffer communities from coastal storms and protect lives, homes, and businesses.
Rising to the challenge, the Open Space Institute (OSI) is administering an innovative initiative aimed at harnessing land protection to mitigate sea level rise and other climate threats across the eastern seaboard. Since 2012, OSI’s Climate Catalyst program has aided in the development of more than 60 climate-informed conservation plans and supported local land trust efforts to better prepare communities for increasingly destructive storms.
Now, with support from Jane’s Trust Foundation, OSI is expanding this effort to tackle the increasing threats of sea level rise in Coastal Maine.
Addressing Sea Level Rise Head-On
Along the New England coast, like other parts of the country, protected land — and its ability to absorb and slow rising waters — is a critical solution that protects lives, livelihoods, and habitat. And in a state that could experience sea levels rise by nearly nine feet by 2100, conserving land — and quickly — is becoming even more urgent.
To encourage coastal conservation, OSI supported the Maine Coast Heritage Trust’s efforts to pilot a new model for climate education: a “Coastal Resilience Master Class” to help participants hone strategies, develop insights, and reflect on new ways of carrying out day-to-day land protection work.
“In Maine, we had existing working groups and forums about sea level rise, but these conversations were mainly for state agencies and municipal policymakers,” says Jeremy Gabrielson, Senior Conservation Planner for the Trust. “There was a real need to get land trusts similarly involved.”