In 2022, OSI continued to amass an impressive suite of wins for climate and habitat connectivity.
As the climate continues to change, state and local leaders are following the national government in turning to land protection as a way to absorb carbon and protect homes, businesses, and infrastructure from the effects of increasingly dangerous storm events.
In South Carolina, OSI continued to amass an impressive suite of wins for climate and habitat connectivity, particularly critical in the face of quick-sprouting subdivisions, strip malls, and industrial sites. An example is the 7,300-acre Buckfield property, secured this year by OSI and The Nature Conservancy. The property, along with the adjoining 5,000-acre Slater property protected last year by OSI, creates a “nature bridge” of undeveloped land spanning from the 300,000-acre Ashepoo-Combahee-Edisto Rivers Basin to the 450,000-acre South Lowcountry-Savannah River, and ensures permanent habitat for rare gopher tortoise populations.
Other OSI successes in South Carolina this year included conservation of one of the last stretches of undeveloped seashore near North Myrtle Beach as habitat for migratory birds; acquisition of more than 2,200 acres along the Santee River; a critical addition to one of the most heavily visited nature preserves in the state; a wildlife sanctuary on the grounds of a former rice plantation; a barrier island project providing habitat for hundreds of sensitive coastal species; and a 40-percent expansion of Cartwheel Bay Heritage Preserve, home to many species of rare plants. Elsewhere in the Southeast, OSI joined forces with Thrive Regional Partnership to roll out the pilot phase of a growing program that will work directly with communities to address recurrent local floods, damaging heat waves, and other climate-induced threats.
Also this year, OSI expanded its $18 million Appalachian Landscapes Protection Fund (ALPF), a first-of-its-kind effort aimed at protecting forests along the Appalachian Mountains — an area responsible for storing most of the nation’s forest carbon. The ALPF’s new focus area, across a 10-million-acre swath of western and central Pennsylvania, contains the state’s largest reserve of forest carbon. Meanwhile, OSI also continued to offer funding and technical assistance to help land trusts address climate impacts like flooding and sea level rise.
On the ground, the ALPF directly supported the protection of several notable conservation projects for carbon storage, including nearly 2,000 acres in Tennessee for three separate projects that safeguarded a wilderness river gorge, habitat for federally endangered bats, and the former outdoor refuge of a WWII veteran; a 646-acre property home to nesting peregrine falcons and three high-elevation peaks in Maine; and more than 600 acres along a scenic Vermont ridgetop. Elsewhere in Vermont, OSI’s Transborder Fund, the only private conservation fund focused on cross-border wildlife migration between the United States and Canada, secured 2,550 acres for endangered bats and other sensitive species.
Finally, the state-of-the-art visitor center at Minnewaska State Park Preserve received global recognition with a sustainability award recognizing the building’s advanced features including energy conservation. The center was supported by a $3 million fundraising campaign led by OSI, at a park whose acreage OSI has more than doubled through the years.