Western PA Conservancy

OSI Grants Accelerate Climate-Smart Conservation

Image Credit: Courtesy of Western Pennsylvania Conservancy

NEW YORK, NY (Feb. 21, 2023)—According to leading climate scientists, preserving forests through reforestation, restoration, and other smart land management techniques could help the United States capture as much as 36 percent of its entire annual carbon emissions.1

As conservationists and communities increasingly embrace climate science to guide land protection, an ongoing collaboration between the Open Space Institute and the Land Trust Alliance is catalyzing this critical effort. Under the joint Land and Climate Grant Program, local land trusts, nonprofits, and tribes are eligible for funding to develop climate-informed conservation plans. Over the past two years, the initiative has awarded nearly $800,000 in grants and technical assistance.

During this most recent grant round, more than 30 organizations across the country received awards supporting innovative projects that use climate data to guide the protection and management of high carbon-storage forests; secure land for wildlife habitat; harness land to buffer the effects of powerful storms; and address the unequal burden of climate impacts on under-resourced communities.

Stewarding Forests for Climate

Organizations along the eastern seaboard are developing innovative approaches to climate-informed forest stewardship, thanks in part to grant support from the Land and Climate Grant Program.

In Connecticut, Vermont, and New York, the National Audubon Society will develop forest management plans for three Audubon preserves with the goal of improving forest health, climate resilience, and wildlife habitat. The plans will incorporate strategies to strengthen forest health, address climate vulnerabilities, and enhance habitat for forest birds such as the Wood Thrush and the Scarlet Tanager.

In the mid-Atlantic, the Western Pennsylvania Conservancy is managing a portion of its 1,465-acre Bennett Branch Forest as a demonstration site for sustainable commercial forestry practices that balance ecological and economic objectives. The property, which is open to the public, serves as an educational resource for landowners and forestry professionals. The Conservancy will update the property’s forest management plan with replicable strategies to promote carbon capture and storage, and ecosystem resilience.

Bennett Branch Forest field visit Western Pennsylvania Conservancy
Staffers and family of OSI grantee Western Pennsylvania Conservancy complete a field visit to the Bennett Branch Forest.
Image Credit: Western Pennsylvania Conservancy

In the Southeast, forest managers are employing the restoration of native longleaf pine forests in order to make forests more resilient to damage from pests and wildfires, while harnessing the trees’ ability to sequester carbon. Land and Climate Grant Program support is helping the North Carolina Historic Sites Alliance work with the state’s Department of Natural and Cultural Resources in developing a forest-based carbon storage and sequestration plan for the 2,100-acre Bentonville Battlefield Civil War historic site. The project team is also assessing management techniques such as prescribed burning and reforestation of areas long ago cleared for agriculture.

Leveraging Climate Data for Strategic Conservation

The Land and Climate Grant Program is also funding planning for strategic land protection, drawing on climate data to identify lands that provide climate benefits for both people and wildlife.

To protect the 1.7-million-acre corridor flanking the Appalachian Trail in Maine — a priority conservation landscape storing vast amounts of carbon and providing critical wildlife habitat — the Maine Appalachian Trail Land Trust (MATLT) is integrating carbon data into a decision support tool used by multiple conservation partners. The project aligns with efforts by the state of Maine to reduce greenhouse gas emissions by 80 percent by 2050. Simon Rucker, MATLT’s Executive Director, praised OSI’s partnership, saying, “Support from the Open Space Institute has been instrumental in helping MATLT utilize forest ecosystem carbon data. In addition to funding, the guidance and technical support OSI provided ensures data can be used effectively for land protection in the Appalachian Trail landscape in Maine.”

Land and Climate Grant Program funds are also supporting the Northern Virginia Conservation Trust in developing strategies to buffer the impacts of damaging storms and provide cooling relief from extreme heat. Funding from the program will advance the organization’s work to improve climate resilience and carbon sequestration while reducing climate threats. The group has a goal of developing replicable climate resilience solutions for the region, which encompasses portions of the Washington, D.C. metro area.

OSI and Land Trust Alliance will announce the next Land and Climate Grant Program request for proposals in spring 2023. Learn more about OSI’s climate planning program here. Read about several projects supported in the 2021 grant round here. To receive a notification about future grant rounds, please sign up here.

1Land management and carbon sequestration statistics from Fargione et al. (2018) Natural Climate Solutions for the United States.

The Land and Climate Grant Program is a joint initiative of the Open Space Institute and Land Trust Alliance, made possible with generous support from the Doris Duke Charitable Foundation, Jane’s Trust Foundation, the J.M. Kaplan Fund, the Volgenau Foundation, and the William Penn Foundation.

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