The Conservation Trust for North Carolina (CTNC), in partnership with the Open Space Institute and with generous support from the Z. Smith Reynolds Foundation and the Doris Duke Charitable Foundation, awarded $90,000 to six local land trusts and one partnership of land trusts to identify for protection the areas within the state that will be most resilient to climate change. The grants will enable the land trusts to apply climate resilience science to prioritize conservation efforts and ultimately help humans and wildlife stand up to the impacts of climate change.

Climate-resilient lands provide “natural strongholds” that bounce back from natural disturbances such as drought or wildfire, maintaining their ability to function and support human and wildlife communities. The Nature Conservancy (TNC) has developed data identifying these strongholds based on the complexity of landscape features – such as valleys, peaks, caves and wetlands – and the barriers to movement between them. Using TNC’s data, and aided by technical support from the Open Space Institute, some of North Carolina’s leading land trusts now will be able to integrate resilience data into their planning efforts and accelerate conservation of these critical areas.

CTNC’s partnership with the Open Space Institute and the investment from Z. Smith Reynolds and Doris Duke Charitable Foundations are key to North Carolina’s local land trusts’ efforts to identify places to protect that will be valuable conservation areas long into the future, even as natural areas, wildlife habitat, and species change in response to the climate.

The seven funded proposals are:

  • Integrating Resiliency and Connectivity Models for Conservation Planning in Western North Carolina – $30,000 to Blue Ridge Forever and Wildlands Network to create an interactive online conservation planning and storytelling tool for western North Carolina that reflects the current state of conservation and combines climate resilience science with other data to identify key properties with the greatest conservation impact. Blue Ridge Forever is a partnership of land conservation organizations operating in the North Carolina mountains, and is based in Asheville. Wildlands Network provides science and strategic support to conservation organizations and government agencies with the goal of connecting protected areas on a continental scale to sustain wildlife and nature over the long-term.
  • Connecting Conservation and Climate Resiliency Data in the Cape Fear Arch Region – $22,000 to North Carolina Coastal Land Trust to reevaluate land conservation priorities in light of climate change in an area with unique geology and high diversity of plants and wildlife, and to examine and test the components of The Nature Conservancy’s climate resiliency data using two specific high priority sites as case studies.
  • Climate Resiliency and Working Lands in North Carolina’s Triangle Region – $14,000 to Triangle Land Conservancy to develop a conservation plan that accounts for the potential of agricultural lands to contribute to climate resilience and identify restoration activities that could augment working farms and forests as climate resilient corridors and refuges.
  • Conservation Planning for Priority Resilient Land in SAHC Focus Areas – $9,000 to Southern Appalachian Highlands Conservancy to update their land protection strategic plan and their farmland protection strategic plan with climate resilience data to identify the highest resilience lands for future land protection efforts.
  • Three grants for Conservation Planning for Priority Resilient Land in the Southern Blue Ridge – $5,000 each to Carolina Mountains Land Conservancy, Highlands-Cashiers Land Trust, and Mainspring Conservation Trust to update their land protection strategic plans, integrating resiliency data and identifying priority criteria and parcels.

“The impacts of climate change threaten our air, water, and food sources, and the integrity of the places that people treasure for recreation, scenic beauty, and nature,” said Reid Wilson, Executive Director of the Conservation Trust for North Carolina. “These grants will help ensure that human and natural communities endure as climate changes by identifying and protecting highly resilient lands.”

In March 2016, trustees of the Z. Smith Reynolds Foundation awarded a $95,000 grant to CTNC to support land trusts’ efforts to preserve natural areas that will be the most resilient to climate change. The grants to local land trusts flow from the Foundation’s grant, as well as from the Open Space Institute’s Resilient Landscape Initiative, funded generously by the Doris Duke Charitable Foundation.

“The Z. Smith Reynolds Foundation believes in protecting North Carolina’s varied species and unique natural landscapes for current and future generations,” said Joy Vermillion Heinsohn, assistant director of the Z. Smith Reynolds Foundation. “The Conservation Trust for North Carolina has a strong record of promoting this value through innovative work with land trusts across the state. We are proud to be a partner with the Conservation Trust for North Carolina as it works to promote resiliency in light of impending climate change.”

The Open Space Institute has provided input and technical expertise to CTNC based on its experience working with land trusts to protect resilient sites and to promote the use of resilience science through its Catalyst Grants program.

“Preserving climate-resilient lands today will help protect tomorrow’s wildlife, drinking water and other critical resources that go hand-in-hand with conserved land,” said Peter Howell, OSI’s Executive Vice President. “We applaud these local land trusts and the Conservation Trust for North Carolina, which are on the forefront of protecting some of the world’s most celebrated and biodiverse lands.”