As we are experiencing some of the hottest months ever recorded in history, one cannot help thinking about how climate change is inevitably going to affect our ecology, economy, and quality of life. Even Governor Jay Inslee and DNR Commissioner Hilary Franz are piping up publicly about climate change effects, such as increased wildfire, drought, and habitat decline, in an impassioned Op-Ed in the Seattle Times this week.
While the climate change projections are hard to swallow, hope lies in how we steward our earth moving forward. This August, UN Intergovernmental Panel on Climate Change (IPCC) released a report about land use and climate change. The report confirms, from a scientific standpoint, the important role that natural climate solutions can play in mitigating climate change. Natural climate solutions are proven ways of both storing carbon and reducing carbon emissions in the world’s forests, grasslands and wetlands. We have already learned that natural climate solutions are projected to help slow down climate change by 21%. The report makes clear that, in order to protect the world’s food supply, we need to be careful to keep the natural in natural climate solutions by not going too far in pursuing large-scale bioenergy operations and afforestation, instead maintaining our focus on protecting and restoring natural ecosystems consisting of native plants and animals.
Land trusts are an obvious partner in employing natural climate solutions to mitigate climate change. Washington’s land trust community is already incorporating climate change into its mission, conservation strategy, and communications. In addition to the IPCC report, here are some of the latest climate research and resources that’s on the top of our mind this summer.
Evergreen State College Research Evaluates Washington land trusts
Capitol Land Trust, along with several WA land trusts, collaborated with Evergreen State College graduate students in investigating the nexus of climate change and local land conservation.
In addition to a literature review, masters student Alex James interviewed seventeen Washington land trusts to evaluate the mitigation and adaptation strategies of land trusts. Results from the analyses reveal that land trusts have acknowledged climate change, and many are beginning to incorporate climate change into strategic planning. Meanwhile, James notes that “many of the response strategies to account for climate impacts are implemented out of necessity, such as increased irrigation methods to mitigate drought impacts and changes in vegetative plantings on restoration sites.”
One immediate solution to address climate change, as expressed by land trust personnel, pertains to increased access to fine-scale climate data, both physical access to and interpretation of such data. This could help land trusts not only integrate data-based, measurable goals into their conservation strategies, but also forecast their stewardship needs into perpetuity.
Read more about James climate change and land trusts study, and her 5 recommendations, here.
Facing Climate-Driven Stewardship Challenges
Climate change is challenging land trusts in many ways, including in stewarding protected lands. In the latest issue of Saving Lands magazine, the Land Trust Alliance profiles how eight land trusts across the US are managing threats in a systematic way to increase the land’s resilience.
“As climate change reshapes ecosystems, land trust staff and volunteers around the country are attempting constructive responses and trying to help landowners adapt. Many challenges require the help of scientists as land managers confront problems that are new to their regions or occurring on an unprecedented scale. Increasingly, they’re forced to ask: How do we put back the resiliency in the landscape?”
Land trusts across the nation are rising to the challenge to deal with climate consequences such as rising water reclaiming farmland in Maryland, freshwater algal blooms in upstate New York, wildfires in the Sierra Nevada and Montana, and invasive caterpillars in New England. Read more about their experiences here.
Land Trust Alliance launches PNW Resilient Landscapes Program
The Pacific Northwest Resilient Landscapes Initiative is a partnership of the three community foundations and the Land Trust Alliance to permanently protect thousands of acres of natural lands in Oregon, Idaho and Washington that can preserve biodiversity, durable wildlife habitat and functional migration corridors as the climate changes. The Initiative will maximize the Doris Duke Charitable Foundation’s investment by joining with other community foundation donors to support this coordinated effort to increase the capacity of land trusts and provide them with the resources they need to conserve critical natural lands.
Scientists at The Nature Conservancy have developed a methodology known as “Resilient and Connected Landscapes” to identify natural places predicted to withstand the growing impacts of climate change and offer refuges to a diverse array of plants and animals, as well as ecosystem services like clean drinking water. Land trusts will be able to use this methodology to identify the areas of highest conservation value with a climate lens.
Connect with the LTA Land Transactions Program Manager, Owen Wozniak (firstname.lastname@example.org) for more information.
Communicating climate change
So much of landscape resilience happens on a time scale that is imperceptible to the eye. We need long term dedication, and long-term monitoring. Meanwhile, what is something that we can do TODAY? “Talking about climate change is probably one of the most important things you can do, both as individuals, and as a land trust,” explains Judy Anderson of Community Consultants. “Finding common ground, helping people understand how climate change will impact what they love, and connecting the dots to what they can do about it sets us on a path toward change.”