Environment

Land Conservation in an Era of Climate Change

Conserving, restoring and managing ecosystems is fundamental to protecting wildlife and sustaining biodiveristy in all its forms. As climate change increasingly alters the natural world and the techniques by which we conserve it, land conservation must be pursued more strategically than ever to ensure that the benefits to wildlife endure, that stewardship helps prepare landscapes for rapid change, and that the climate mitigation potential of lands and waters are enhanced.

The Environment Program supports efforts that establish rigorous frameworks and concrete examples of how practitioners can protect biodiversity and address the climate crisis through strategic, climate-adapted land conservation. We also recognize that to be effective, land conservation must be inclusive and respectful of the rights of local communities, traditional knowledge, and support equitable access to and benefits from nature.

(Please also see our Natural Climate Solutions Initiative for additional information about our support of land-based climate mitigation efforts.)

Strategy

Our support focuses on three critical land conservation activities undertaken by non-profit organizations and government natural resource agencies, with the overarching goal of helping the conservation community maintain ecosystem functionality in the face of a rapidly changing climate.

Our approaches to land conservation include:

  • Identifying resilient landscapes. To help determine the best places to conserve based on the changes we anticipate from climate change, we support efforts to develop methodologies for incorporating climate change considerations into habitat conservation planning. In particular, we support the development and application of methodologies pioneered by The Nature Conservancy to help habitat conservation planners identify landscapes that exhibit climate change resilience.
  • Protecting resilient landscapes. The Environment Program awards land capital grants, exclusively through re-granting programs administered by other organizations, to protect landscapes that have been identified as resilient to climate change and a high conservation priority at the regional level. The program has awarded more than $30 million to protect resilient, high-priority landscapes across the country. Currently, we support:
    • The Pacific Northwest Resilient Landscapes Initiative, a collaborative between the Land Trust Alliance, the Oregon Community Foundation, the Seattle Foundation, and the Idaho Community Foundation to protect thousands of acres of resilient habitat and landscape linkages in Oregon, Idaho and Washington.
  • Managing, restoring and adapting conserved lands. While the above strategies are critical, it is also important that lands already in protected status be managed with climate change in mind. To address this need, we support a number of climate adaptation initiatives and coastal resiliency re-granting programs to increase the efficiency and efficacy of climate adaptation work:
    • The Climate Adaptation Fund, a national re-granting program managed by the Wildlife Conservation Society, that funds on-the-ground adaptation projects throughout the United States. Watch a video about the program;
    • The Climate Resilience Fund, a national re-granting program that supports collaborative projects that streamline, coordinate, and disseminate the tools required to implement climate adaptation and resilience strategies;
    • The Georgetown Climate Center, to create a Managed Retreat Toolkit of policies, programs, and community approaches for reducing risks due to sea level rise;
    • The Climigration Network, to grow the field of practice that supports communities and ecosystems in relocation due to climate risk; and
    • The Audubon Society, to advance policies and protections for coastal ecosystems experiencing rapid sea level rise.