Climate change land trust alliance

In January 2017, the Land Trust Alliance launched a new program to help land trusts address climate change. Funded by a generous catalyst grant from the Doris Duke Charitable Foundation, the Land and Climate Program is a bold new Alliance program that will provide land trusts with the strategies, training and tools they need to both adapt to and mitigate climate change in their land conservation work.

After investing decades of hard work and billions of dollars in conservation in the U.S., land trusts are increasingly concerned about the impacts of climate change. They are seeking tools, resources and training to help them adopt climate adaptation and mitigation practices. They also are asking for help in addressing one of the principal ways that the nation will ultimately mitigate climate change: the buildout of large-scale renewable energy facilities.

• Empowering land trusts to encourage the buildout of renewable energy facilities while steering the facilities away from sensitive lands through a pilot project in New York, which will help land trusts in other states effectively navigate similar challenges. As part of a larger stakeholder process led by The Nature Conservancy, the New York effort will help shape New York state policy and guidelines related to renewable energy siting.

The land trust community has a moral obligation to address the climate crisis. And we can help mitigate climate change by doing what we’ve always done: conserving more land and stewarding it effectively. In doing so, we’ll definitively demonstrate our relevance to people and their wellbeing, while simultaneously bringing home significant financial resources to power our land conservation efforts. This new program will enable the land trust community to vigorously go down this path.

Climate change is happening and it’s accelerating. Although we can still prevent the most severe impacts, we can’t stop climate change. Even if we eliminated all climate-changing emissions tomorrow, the greenhouse gases already in our atmosphere would continue to change the climate. Since we can’t stop climate change, we need to prepare for it. For land trusts, this means rethinking how we approach land conservation.

For example, in 50 years, a property that is a coastal marsh today might be underwater. To preserve this habitat, a land trust might prioritize properties that are just upland, so the marsh can move inland as sea levels rise. Conserving land for the marsh could help both human and wild communities adapt to climate change. For example, it could buffer a nearby neighborhood from heavy storms, reducing loss of life and property. It could also replace lost habitat for plants and animals or form part of a corridor so they can migrate to new habitat.

In an era of rapid climate change, strategic conservation planning is complex — but more important than ever. Fortunately, conservation organizations have developed sophisticated frameworks that land trusts can use to assess vulnerability, identify priorities for resilience, and adapt to change. Check out our strategic conservation planning case studies.

When communicating about climate change, sidestep jargon that may be clear to specialists but not to the general populace. Words like resilience, mitigation, adaptation and sequestration should give way to more accessible terms like readiness, reducing pollution, disaster preparedness and carbon storage. More information on this topic is available from Water Words That Work’s report, “ How to Talk about Climate Change," and in the Land Trust Alliance‘s climate change glossary. More information