How Land Trusts and Conservancies Are Achieving Climate Impact at Scale
As the climate crisis grows ever more urgent, land conservationists are taking meaningful action to reduce carbon in the atmosphere and protect natural systems from the unavoidable impacts of a warming planet, according to a new report from the Lincoln Institute of Land Policy.
From the Great Plains of the United States to the high-altitude wetlands of Ecuador, land trusts and conservancies are developing and implementing creative, nature-based strategies to address climate change. In the report From the Ground Up: How Land Trusts and Conservancies are Providing Solutions to Climate Change, Lincoln Institute experts James N. Levitt and Chandni Navalkha document these initiatives through a dozen case examples that demonstrate how conservation organizations can help mitigate and adapt to climate change.
“Such organizations are working in more than 100 nations on six continents,” write Levitt, director of the Lincoln Institute’s International Land Conservation Network, and Navalkha, the Lincoln Institute’s associate director of sustainably managed land and water resources. “They represent millions of engaged citizens working from Finland to Chile to pass our natural heritage on to future generations.”
The report explores how land trusts and conservancies have addressed climate change in five distinct areas, with examples of successful initiatives in each:
- Land Protection, Restoration, and Management
- Water Supply, Stormwater Management, and Buffering Against Sea-Level Rise
- Biodiversity Conservation
- Carbon Sequestration
- Energy Production
Among the cases, the report documents how The Nature Conservancy (TNC) is using sophisticated geospatial technology to identify sites in the United States where wind turbines will not pose a threat to birds or other wildlife. The initiative, Site Wind Right, draws on more than 100 sources to map wind resources, wildlife habitat, infrastructure, and other relevant data. It identifies more than 90 million acres as suitable for wind turbines—enough land to generate wind power equal to the country’s entire electricity supply from all sources in 2018.
Meanwhile, the South American capital city of Quito, Ecuador, has confronted threats to its water supply—made worse by climate change—through an ambitious land conservation program. The municipality worked with the local water provider and others to enhance water quality and supply downstream by conserving and better managing land upstream, in the high-altitude wetlands known as the Andean páramo, which surround the city. Through partnerships with international organizations, including TNC, the program has been replicated in at least seven other Latin American cities, generating more than USD $200 million for conservation efforts from 500 public and private partners.
Drawing on these cases and 10 others, Levitt and Navalkha synthesize lessons learned and make five recommendations for those who seek to confront climate change through land conservation: Empower civic sector initiatives that are creative and ambitious in scope and scale; invest in initiatives with clear strategies and measurable impact; aim for broad collaborations; share advanced science, technologies, and financing techniques; and think long term.
“In the evolving struggle to rein in and cope with climate change globally, all sectors must join forces to find solutions that are sustainable, replicable, and reliable,” the authors conclude.
Will Jason is director of communications at the Lincoln Institute of Land Policy.
Image: Flint Hills Credit: Brad Mangas