Resilient Landscapes Initiative
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.
The land conservation community, particularly land trusts and public agencies have a critical role to play in ensuring there are places where plants and animals can thrive and adapt to a warming planet. Yet few land trusts are embracing this role. One land trust completed a survey showing that only a handful of land trusts have adjusted their priorities to respond to climate change and, remarkably, the northeastern land trusts, known for their capacity and leadership, have been behind the west and the southeast in responding to climate change.
Partially, this reflects the opportunistic orientation of many land trusts. But it has also been a challenge to translate a global atmospheric phenomenon into spatially specific data that land trusts can easily integrate without complex mapping tools and climate expertise.
The risk is that climate change will not only unravel what’s taken decades to conserve, but that the limited dollars available for conservation in today’s economy will continue to be targeted to landscapes that lack the characteristics that will enable them to endure.
A new body of science has the potential to help land trusts make sense of this puzzle. This new approach, authored by The Nature Conservancy and based on more than a decade of research, suggests that future biodiversity is intimately related to the diversity of underlying landscape features. (Report)
Put simply, the more varied and complex the landscape, the more likely it will support the greatest diversity of plant and animal life, regardless of how climate changes. At the heart of this shift is understanding that while we cannot predict exactly how species and habitats will respond to climate change, we can identify places that offer a broad diversity of landscape features – such as slopes, valleys, ravines, caves and lowlands – that enable species to adjust to climactic changes. For example, by simply moving to a north side slope, temperatures may be as much as 20 degrees cooler even on the hottest days.
The Resilient Landscapes Initiative
With a grant from the Doris Duke Charitable Foundation, OSI will launch the Resilient Landscapes Initiative to engage land trusts, public agencies and others across the eastern United States to respond to climate change. With its research expertise, over 40 years of transactional experience and a decade working as a financial intermediary building capacity with land trusts, OSI aims to translate the best available science into targeted grants to conserve the places most likely to facilitate wildlife adaptation. The Resilient Landscapes Initiative seeks to educate, train and build capacity of land trusts working to respond to climate change and to direct $5.5 million in capital to pilot sites that will provide refuge for plants and animals.
Education and Outreach Program
One of the Resilient Landscapes Initiative’s primary aims is to increase the understanding and use of climate adaptation science by land trust practitioners and funders. Beyond the outreach of the focal area selection process, OSI will design a broad education and outreach program that can be applied across the 13-state region to facilitate broader use of the most advanced climate-based conservation planning.
As a conservation finance intermediary with a strong track record in translating science into action, OSI brings deep transactional experience, research capability and a demonstrated track record of assisting land trusts. Since its founding nearly 40 years ago, OSI has acted as a land trust in New York, buying land and easements to protect 120,000 acres valued at almost $200 million. For the past 12 years, OSI has also been a conservation lender and regranter, distributing almost $100 million in grants and loans to land trusts from Canada to Georgia that have protected nearly 2 million acres valued at more than $600 million.
With a base of $5.5 million in capital grants and funds for building land trust capacity, the Resilient Landscapes Initiative will:
There are no deadlines for grants at this time (March 2013). If you would like to be notified for future grant opportunities, please sign in here.
For questions on the fund, please contact Yasemin Unal-Rodriguez