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Conserving Land to Combat Climate Change

I conserved my land as a personal response to the reality of our changing climate.

That reason was not my only one for jumping into the land trust movement, but it was the first that truly resonated with me following my retirement from a career in business. As I thought about what I could give back — to make the world slightly better and think globally while acting locally — I decided I wanted to inspire others to act. And conserving land is something that can be done today.

The decision to protect my 118 acres in New York state was one of many choices I’ve made in the last 15 years that have led me to live a net-zero life. I tightened up my 100-year-old house; I installed two solar arrays that provide 95 percent of my electricity, moving me away from fossil fuel, and I switched to renewable sources for my energy grid supply; I moved to geothermal HVAC; I increasingly favored environmentally sensitive cars, going from high mileage (Smart car) to electrified (Chevy Volt) before acquiring an all-electric vehicle (Chevy Bolt); and I’m making similar decisions wherever else possible.

My biggest decision, though, was conserving my land. And there were lots of reasons to do it. I love nature — every bit of it, even the bug bites! So one goal I set for myself was to maximize the biodiversity of my land, which is a multi-generational family residence and working farm with a nature preserve and trail open to the public. As I’ve come to better appreciate the variety of soils, weather, animals and plants that help define my land, my love for it all has grown immeasurably. Recently, I realized the last of the dreams I had 15 years ago by opening the more than two miles of nature trails around my land, Strawberry Fields, to the public. Every time I notice a car in the parking area I feel a pulse of pleasure.

And as I’ve responded more directly to our changing climate, so too has my local land trust. Mohawk Hudson Land Conservancy has added a climate lens to their land protection and community engagement activities, joining the growing ranks of land trusts that have made clear that their work is a substantial mitigation to climate disruption. I hope that in a short time all land trusts will have done the same; it’s the least our future generations deserve.

Jeff Leon, a former Mohawk Hudson Land Conservancy board member, lives in Amsterdam, New York, on Strawberry Fields. This blog post was first drafted in the woods while five of his 10 grandchildren explored the land around them.

Source: Land Trust Alliance