List of Catalyst Grants keyed to map
NEW YORK, NY — October 9, 2014 — Fueled by Resilient Landscape Catalyst
Grants, New England conservation organizations are spreading the word about the
protection of climate-resilient habitat—a potential game-changer as scientists
and conservationists seek to protect the lands best suited for long-term
adaptation to changes in climate.
These “natural strongholds”—have
demonstrated their ability over time to recover from natural disturbances such
as tornadoes, hurricanes or drought. The Nature Conservancy scientists have studied these places
for more than a decade, and now believe that by connecting and conserving
natural strongholds, land trusts can help wildlife and ultimately humans
withstand the effects of climate change.
Using TNC’s scientific data as its basis
and with the generous support of the Doris Duke Charitable Foundation, OSI
launched its Resilient Landscapes Initiative to direct $5.5 million in capital
grants to these “resilient” places. OSI’s initiative targets landscapes that,
due to the connected forests and broad range of features—slopes, valleys,
ravines, caves and lowlands, for example—exhibit diverse microclimates that
will assist with climate-resilient qualities.
Catalyst grant recipient organizations will be positioned
as thought leaders, whose outreach and application of the science can further
accelerate conservation of resilient sites.
“While direct land acquisition is an
important piece of this effort, we can only affect a very small portion of the
unprotected resilient lands in the Northeast with that tool,” said Peter
Howell, OSI’s executive vice president. “Through our education and outreach
initiative, we can aim to integrate this science into a land trust or even a
state agency’s conservation priorities, creating impact at a much greater
Audubon Society (Mass
Audubon) and New Hampshire-based Bear-Paw Regional Greenways, Highstead and the North
Quabbin Regional Conservation Partnership, New
Jersey Conservation Foundation all
received grants in 2013. In 2014 OSI provided additional support to Mass
Audubon and Highstead to build on existing work and initiated new grants to
Appalachian Mountain Club and a partnership between the State of Maine and a
local conservation collaboration.
Massachusetts, a densely populated state of 6 million people, the realization—first
published in Mass Audubon’s well-received Losing Ground report—that 40 acres were being lost
every day to development led state leaders to institute high levels of
conservation funding. With those all-important dollars in place, land trusts
and state agencies in Massachusetts have protected 130,000 acres in the last
six years, bolstering the sixth-largest state park system in the U.S.
that momentum, Mass Audubon updated Losing Ground and identified 1,600 acres of critical
resilient habitat largely in the eastern portion of
the state where there isn’t much resilient lands remaining. With OSI’s
funding and assistance from the Massachusetts chapter of The Nature Conservancy, the organization will be able to combine resiliency data with its own
on-the-ground analysis to pinpoint priority conservation lands—saving the state
and its 150 active land trusts—the time and cost of performing such an analysis
“This will have tremendous importance
going forward,” said Bob Wilber, Mass Audubon’s director of land conservation.
“One of the many benefits is that conservation groups can focus on the land
that’s going to be most responsive to climate change, particularly from a staff
and resource capacity perspective.”
of the excellent reception earned by previous editions of Losing
Ground, Mass Audubon’s research stands to significantly increase
the visibility of this up and coming science.
“Losing Ground will be a platform where we can really
teach people about resilient landscapes,
and build (their protection) where it needs building,” said Jeff Collins, the
director of ecological management at Mass Audubon. “The timing is perfect, it
Elsewhere in New England, Bear-Paw
Regional Greenways used an OSI grant to revise its conservation blueprint to
focus on resilient lands in the southern New Hampshire region. State leaders, already engaged with an active conservation community in
New Hampshire, have also expressed interest in learning how Bear-Paw uses the
resiliency data as they update their own State Wildlife Action Plan.
“The environment for conservation in New
Hampshire is really strong,” said Emily Preston, a wildlife biologist in the
New Hampshire Fish and Game Department’s Nongame and Endangered Wildlife
Program. “We have a lot of great land trusts that are doing very thoughtful
work. Now, as we revise our wildlife action plan maps, we want to include
climate resiliency into it, so it will be much more integrated.”
The 214,000-acre Bear-Paw region is a
unique hotbed for biodiversity, yet much of it is at risk. Population growth
and development threaten to fragment and degrade essential habitats. Water, in
particular, is vulnerable to pollution, altered sediment flow and other
cumulative impacts associated with development.
Bear-Paw’s project will incorporate
resiliency data to identify the areas with an above-average ability to maintain
ecological functions and a diversity of native species, even as the species
composition changes in response to climate. Using that lens may help ensure
that the properties protected today will still be valuable conservation areas
100 years from now.
“Our region includes a lot of priority
areas that are already highlighted in the New Hampshire wildlife action plan,
and we hope that our natural resource mapping project will help build the case
for the importance of protecting land here,” said Daniel Kern, Bear-Paw’s
With half a dozen acquisition projects on
tap and an educational grant program
complementing those efforts, OSI’s Resiliency Fund is ahead of the curve in
preserving wildlife habitat that will endure through changes in climate.
“Ensuring that species can move across
the landscape is key to the long-term health of our ecosystem, even as the
composition of species changes due to climate change,” Preston said. “Climate
resiliency data is helping inform where to protect habitat to allow for that