Land Conservation and Climate Change
These days at Maine Coast Heritage Trust, climate change factors into most decisions we make about how we conserve land.
To ensure our work has the greatest impact, we’ve launched special initiatives to protect and restore some of our coast’s most vital and resilient habitat types, coastal rivers and tidal marshes. We’ve been involved in large-scale habitat protection efforts, we’re assisting communities in their efforts to adapt to climate change, and on our conserved lands we’re conducting invasive species removal projects, piloting marsh restoration projects, practicing regenerative farming techniques… the list goes on.
But MCHT has been conserving land and keeping forests, wetlands, and ecosystems intact since we got our start in 1970—a full five years before the term “climate change” was first used, and decades before it became ubiquitous. As it turns out, we’ve been engaging in “natural climate solutions” for over fifty years, which is a critical component of the multi-faceted approach we must take to slow the rate of climate change and mitigate its impacts.
Here’s the takeaway: supporting land conservation is a powerful way to make a difference.
Three ways land conservation helps when it comes to climate change:
1. Helping wildlife survive and thrive. By protecting large blocks of connected habitat, we give plants and animals the opportunity to move around the landscape, which can be critical to their survival. Many animals must be able to move significant distances to complete their life cycles (think: sea run fish) and find water, food, and mates. As air and ground temperatures change, animals may need to travel farther or move into new areas. Trees and other plants also need room to disperse their seeds and find suitable habitat. We all depend on large swaths of healthy forests—read on to learn more about why.
- Creating a wildlife corridor in downeast Maine
- Restoring fish passage in the Bagaduce River Watershed
- 13,500-acre conservation project protects vast area of woods, waters, and wildlife habitat
2. Lessening the amount of carbon in the atmosphere. If you know anything about climate change, you probably know that it’s the result of too much carbon (Co2) in the atmosphere. Human activities emit around 100 million tons of Co2 daily, causing the atmosphere to trap more heat, raising average temperatures around the globe. Healthy landscapes and ecosystems naturally hold on to carbon, limiting the amount that gets released into the atmosphere. Trees, grasses, shrubs, and other plants require Co2 and other greenhouse gases to stay alive, and they hold on to these gases within their tissues and the ground. By protecting natural spaces, and thoughtfully managing them, we’re helping to remove carbon from the atmosphere. Conversely, when natural spaces are developed, greenhouse gases are emitted into the atmosphere.
- Why MCHT is focused on conserving tidal marshes
- Managing community farmlands with climate change in mind
3. Mitigating impacts to communities. Climate change is a global phenomenon, but its impacts are felt most profoundly on a local level. That’s certainly the case in Maine, where many people live and work in close relationship to the land and the sea. Land trusts and conservation organizations, like Maine Coast Heritage Trust, are working with communities on projects to address current climate change-related issues and problems coming down the road. For example, protected land can buffer nearby neighborhoods from heavy storms, safeguard increasingly precious clean water sources, or simply provide much-needed shade on a sweltering day.
- Coastal river protection and restoration saves keystone fish species like alewives, and benefits local fishing communities
- A conservation project results in protection of an important marsh system, and the creation of workforce housing on Mount Desert Island
Climate change is overwhelming, but there’s some relief in knowing that the woods, waters, and life around us are naturally resilient and even, in some cases, built to sequester the very thing— Co2—that’s out of balance and causing so much harm.
As all of us work to address the massive problem of climate change, land conservation is one of the best tools in our belt. From small community projects that improve peoples’ lives to landscape-scale conservation, every bit of progress matters, and so much more is necessary.
By supporting Maine Coast Heritage Trust and other conservation organizations, you’re making a difference when it comes to climate change.
Do you have questions? Thoughts to add? We’d love to hear from you at .
Photo credits: Tara Rice courtesy of Down East magazine, Paul Cyr, MCHT photo
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