Resilience Projects – Case Study Highlights

Land trusts are building resilience into their stewardship plans in different ways. The following case studies provide examples of various conservation approaches to build resilience and adaptive capacity of systems to respond to a changing environment.

The Hawaiian Islands Land Trust - Waihe’e Coastal Dunes and Wetlands Refuge

Sea level rise amplifies hazards such as coastal erosion, inundation due to storm surge, extreme tides, and tsunami, and is projected to lead to more frequent and increasingly severe flooding. To respond to these threats conservation efforts on the 277-acre Waihe’e Coastal Dunes and Wetlands Refuge aim to mitigate impacts of sea level rise, promote habitat restoration, and support food security and community sustainability.

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Building Resilience with Natural Adaptations to Change

Bainbridge Island Land Trust is working with property owners to implement natural adaptation solutions to build more resilient coastal systems. The Powel Shoreline Restoration Project removed shoreline bulkheading to enhance coastal habitats and reduce risks of destructive undercutting, leveraging a failing bulkhead to produce an adaptive win-win solution to adapt to change.

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Jefferson Land Trust's Conservation Plan and Forward-Facing Forestry

After five years of work, Jefferson Land Trust’s Conservation Plan, a long-range, hundred-year vision of county growth and resource stewardship, was completed in 2010. JLT’s projects highlight how strategic planning can effectively align complementary management objectives such as stewarding sustainable working lands, conserving habitat, providing recreation, and enhancing overall resilience of ecosystems.

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Lake Pontchartrain Basin Foundation: Resiliency Planning

The Lake Pontchartrain Basin Foundation (LPBF) works to restore and preserve natural resources within the watershed. Restoration projects combined with community education and outreach to improve land management practices have yielded measurable water quality improvements. By increasing protection of natural features such as marshes, barrier islands, and ridges, conservation efforts help protect surrounding communities – both ecological and socio-economic – from the impacts of increasingly stronger hurricanes and sea level rise.

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Watch Hill Conservancy – Building Knowledge to Respond to Change

In Rhode Island, the Watch Hill Conservancy (the Conservancy or WHC) works to preserve, conserve, maintain, and enhance the scenic, open space and historical values and the character of the area. In addition to promoting preservation, the Conservancy runs educational programs and works to acquire and preserve interests in real property in order to support the continued vitality and sustainability of the community. WHC partners with the Watch Hill Fire District to protect and manage the Napatree Point Conservation Area, a dynamic peninsula system that includes diverse ecosystem types and offers a variety of educational and recreational opportunities to people in this region.

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South Kingstown Land Trust – Integrating Adaptation into Conservation Planning

The South Kingstown Land Trust (SKLT)’s vulnerability assessment and resulting conservation planning efforts identify organizational goals, natural resource assets, and management priorities. This iterative adaptive management approach enables the land trust to focus stewardship activities on critical ecosystems while allowing the flexibility to acknowledge uncertainties and revisit results. By integrating climate change adaptation considerations into conservation planning, SKLT is able to address changing environmental conditions using an informed and methodical approach, and to plan future acquisitions and restoration projects based on their stewardship objectives.

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Planning for Marsh Migration at the Blackwater National Wildlife Refuge

Blackwater 2100 is a collaborative strategic conservation plan that aims to address salt marsh loss and migration in Maryland’s Chesapeake Bay.

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Vermont Land Trust - Targeted Acquisitions for Wildlife and Ecosystems

The Vermont Land Trust executed a targeted 163 acre land acquisition to help struggling black bears move between the Green Mountain and Taconic ranges. Working to connect these vast open spaces in Vermont and New York enhances the ability of bears to move from their home ranges to feeding habitat, and increases connectivity for a variety of wildlife.

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Scenic Hudson: Projecting and Buffering Against Sea Level Rise Impacts

In New York, Scenic Hudson is conserving land in 82 communities in ten counties along the Hudson River to buffer against future sea level rise impacts. By targeting key properties for acquisition efforts, this land trust is working to ensure that natural processes such as marsh migration can continue to provide valuable ecological services as well as mitigate the effects of rising waters throughout the estuary.

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The Elkhorn Slough Foundation - Clearing the Floodplain, Adapting to Change

The ESF has been responding to potential climate change impacts by working cooperatively to study and address salt marsh loss. In addition to working with agencies and regional research facilities, ESF conservation projects such as constructing water control structures to adapt to rising sea levels and acquisition and management efforts to “clear the floodplain” address climate change challenges by allowing for migration of tidal marshes and building ecological resilience.

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North Florida Land Trust – Strategic Conservation Mapping

The North Florida Land Trust has used 26 natural resource criteria to map and prioritize strategic conservation objectives in a seven-county region. The resulting North Florida Conservation Priorities map offers a quantitative guide of conservation values, informing acquisition and management priorities in this area.

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Nebraska Land Trust - Crafting Flexible Easements to Respond to Change

At Nebraska Land Trust flexible easements further long-term management objectives. As climate conditions present new management threats, it is important that conservation easements allow for the flexibility to mitigate and adapt to these impacts.

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Southwest Michigan Land Conservancy's Wau-Ke-Na Conservation Master Plan

The Southwest Michigan Land Conservancy (SWMLC) focuses land management and acquisition efforts on maintaining and improving natural communities. When working to support ecological health, climate change is an import, but at times divisive concern. By focusing on resiliency, SWMLC is able to concentrate management planning discussions and implementation projects on ways to ensure that habitats are able to persist through constantly changing conditions.

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The Nature Conservancy CA – Connecting Multiple Resource Benefit Management to Resiliency Planning

To inform management decisions in the region, TNC-CA and partners conducted comprehensive climate change planning and vulnerability assessments for this area. The climate change planning effort began by identifying six key species and habitats in the Mount Hamilton project area.

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Climate Change and Forest Health: Helping landowners with tough decisions

Landscapes in the intermountain west are becoming increasingly warmer, drier, and fragmented. Additionally, naturally-occurring wildfires are increasingly suppressed, eliminating the health benefits of these events. Such patterns and others have reduced the resilience of forests and given way to insect pest and disease outbreaks. Gallatin Valley Land Trust (GVLT) in Bozeman, Montana, has documented these changing conditions and is supporting landowners in addressing forest threats. GVLT provides information and expertise to private landowners about how to treat and prevent further outbreaks. They also help landowners identify financial resources to support the work of forest management. In a changing climate, proactively addressing these issues helps vegetation communities remain resilient, enhancing the conservation values of private land.

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Bald Head Island Conservancy: Catalyzing Small Changes in Climate Change Adaptation

To support climate change adaptation planning the Bald Head Island Conservancy has developed a comprehensive public outreach campaign to help educate community members about potential impacts to the island and individual choices that can help improve the socioecological system’s resilience.

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