Resilient Landscapes Initiative

Web Map RLI Resilient 4 regions



click here to download a pdf map

Conservation in a Changing Climate

We are in the midst of global climate change. The United States is experiencing higher than average annual temperatures, longer growing seasons, and shorter periods with frozen soils and lakes, as well as more extreme precipitation and related flooding. These rapidly changing and unpredictable conditions may unravel what has taken decades to conserve, degrading habitats so that they no longer support a diversity of plants and animals.

This risk necessitates a new approach to land conservation – an approach that targets conservation efforts to places most likely to be resilient in the face of the changing climate. Addressing that challenge, the Open Space Institute’s Resilient Landscapes Initiative is working with land trusts and public agencies from Maine to West Virginia to integrate climate change considerations into conservation priorities and to identify and protect resilient landscapes.

A New Approach –
Identifying Resilient Places

The land conservation community can play a defining role in protecting places where natural communities can thrive despite a warming planet. A new body of science has the potential to help land trusts make sense of the climate change puzzle. OSI has launched the Resilient Landscapes Initiative to facilitate the understanding, use and application of this science to climate change.

This science helps decision-makers ensure that the places we are conserving today will support a diversity of plants and animals tomorrow, within the context of climate change. This approach, authored by scientists at The Nature Conservancy (TNC report) and based on more than a decade of research, has found that sustaining species diversity across the landscape is a function of three key elements: the complexity of landforms above ground, the connectivity of natural systems and the diversity of geology types. At the heart of this science is that while we cannot predict exactly how species and habitats will respond to climate change, we can identify places that provide the greatest climatic options for the greatest number of species.

OSI Capital and Catalyst Grants

Using this new science, with a $6 million lead grant from the Doris Duke Charitable Foundation, OSI has launched the Resilient Landscapes Initiative to engage land trusts and public agencies across the eastern United States to respond to climate change. The Initiative seeks to increase conservation of lands that can facilitate wildlife adaptation to climate change, facilitate access to and use of TNC resiliency science, and enhance land trust capacity focused on critical climate priorities. OSI will achieve its goals through selected capital grants and a targeted outreach and education program.

Capital Grants

Through the Initiative, OSI is distributing $5.5 million in capital grants within four targeted areas. OSI selected these four Resilient Landscapes that are all strongly positioned to facilitate wildlife adaptation to climate change. Click on the highlighted region to download a pdf fact sheet:

Potomac Headwaters in West Virginia and Virginia,
Highlands and Kittatinny Ridge in New Jersey and Pennyslvania
, Middle Connecticut River in Vermont and Massachusetts, and Southern New Hampshire and Maine Forests

Links go to a PDF fact sheet for each focus area, check your computers download folder.

To select these Landscapes, from Maine to West Virginia, OSI used a two-step screening process – a science filter and a feasibility filter. In the science-based phase of work, OSI determined ‘best bets’ for permanent conservation in the face of climate change and worked with an expert group of advisors – including ecologists from leading academic institutions, NatureServe, the North Atlantic Landscape Conservation Cooperative and the Wildlife Conservation Society - to select the final Resilient Landscapes.  The Landscape Selection Process paper provides information on how these areas were chosen.  

In the feasibility phase, OSI screened these science-based sites to identify places where there was capacity to complete transactions, manageable threats and potential matching public and private funds. We surveyed land trusts and agencies, funding sources and large-scale threats to determine where capital investments have the potential to have significant impact.

OSI awards matching grants to projects within these Resilient Landscapes that permanently protect habitat through the acquisition of land or conservation easements. OSI staff and the Fund’s Advisory Committee reviews applications, solicited through a competitive process, against the resiliency data and other ecological and transactional criteria and makes recommendations to OSI’s conservation capital committee. 

Grant applications will accepted from January 16, 2014 through March 18, 2014 at 5pm. The following grant round will be announced in 6-9 months. To be notified and learn more about the grant fund, please click here

Catalyst Grants

OSI supports the capacity of land trusts and public agencies to respond to climate change through selected Catalyst Grants. These grants help build the knowledge base of key audiences and advance the practical application of resiliency science. To enhance these grants, OSI is also developing guidance documents that inform conservation planning and evaluation of resiliency transactions. These efforts are central to understanding the challenges and opportunities for applying resiliency science.

Projects funded by Catalyst Grants aim to provide practical responses and tangible case studies to further understanding of the following questions:

  • How can resiliency science be applied to conservation planning to advance protection of the most resilient lands?
  • How could resiliency science inform land management, stewardship  and land use planning to ensure long term protection in the face of climate change?
  • How could the resiliency science be integrated with other climate analyses to provide the most robust approach to climate change?


Catalyst Grants and range in size from $7,500 to $25,000. OSI anticipates initiating the next round of Catalyst Grants in May 2014. Read more about the first round of Catalyst Grants. For further information or to discuss your project, contact Abby Weinberg.

Access to the Resiliency Data

OSI ‘s Definitions and Data Guide defines and explains resiliency concepts and provides guidance for capital grant applicants. 

The companion resiliency map package emphasizes the components of resiliency that are core to OSI’s Resiliency Initiative and that are priorities in our Capital and Catalyst Grants. The rationale for these priorities is described in our Landscape Selection Process paper.

All capital grant applicants should review the Guide prior to applying. The Guide defines key resiliency concepts, describes OSI’s resiliency map package, and provides examples of maps required for OSI’s capital grant program.

The full TNC report and associated data from which OSI’s data is derived is available here


Capital Grant Fund
Jennifer Melville

General Information
Yasemin Unal-Rodriguez

Outreach and Catalyst Grants
Abigail Weinberg

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