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Year-in-Review 2020: Addressing Climate Change & Protecting Habitat

Image Credit: Greg Miller

As the climate continues to change, land conservation plays an essential role for animals and mankind. 

This role can be seen both in terms of carbon storage in trees and soil, and as a natural way to mitigate fiercer storms and rising waters. This year, OSI-protected lands removed an estimated 1.5 million metric tons of carbon dioxide from the atmosphere – equivalent to the annual emissions of more than 1.2 million cars. For example, the newly-protected West Mountain property stores approximately 116,000 metric tons of carbon, or more than 90 metric tons per acre, which is considered well above average. The property joins the Baldface and Trembleau mountain additions, also protected this year, as examples of successful OSI projects that not only safeguard habitat, but are a critical stabilizing force for the climate.

Black River Bluebird Dana Beach
OSI's work continues to protect habitat and mitigate flooding in downstream communities.
Image Credit: Dana Beach

Near the Georgia coast, OSI laid the groundwork for the protection of the 3,200-acre Cabin Bluff property, with a sale to a private buyer. In the coming years, the property will play the critical role of buffering inland communities from rising sea levels. Before year’s end, OSI is also on track to protect more critical land for the Gopher tortoise, a keystone species whose burrows provide shelter for approximately 350 other wildlife species.

One state away in South Carolina, even more habitat was protected for the critically endangered Carolina heelsplitter mussel. OSI transferred a scenic riverfront property, instrumental for future flood mitigation, to public hands – after securing grants for a potential park. And, OSI’s conservation along the flood-prone Waccamaw River was featured on the American Rivers podcast.

Finally, with the conservation of a scenic North Carolina mountain summit, OSI this year completed the Resilient Landscape Initiative (RLI). Started in 2012 with the generous support of the Doris Duke Charitable Foundation, the initiative provided a total of $5.5 million to conserve 55,000 acres. These lands, which include the Whites & Piney Creek Gorge property, were targeted for their ability to harbor habitat for sensitive plants and animals, even as the climate changes.

Through the RLI “Catalyst Program,” OSI also integrated climate science into more than 40 conservation plans by land trusts and public-private partnerships and disseminated training materials and case studies to more than 1,300 practitioners.

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