Scenic Hudson – Communications Case Study in Context

Behind the Scenes

Audrey Friedrichsen, Land Use and Environmental Advocacy Attorney for Scenic Hudson tells the story behind this product:

Context for the product

Scenic Hudson stepped into the renewable energy space because New York state has adopted a renewable energy target of 50 percent by 2030. That standard is driving a lot of projects, and we are seeing them proposed in our mission area of the Hudson Valley. t is receiving various levels of acceptance from residents in terms of how to respond –whether they want it, oppose it, think it’s okay, or aren’t quite sure.

That’s why we put together the guide and have added this renewable energy campaign to our mission statement, which is about moving beyond climate change adaptation to mitigation by supporting the renewables goal and maximizing potential. But it has to be done in accordance with our mission without impacting all of the things in the Hudson Valley we have worked so hard to preserve.

Understanding the audience

This has been a difficult area to step into because lots of people in our region are against these projects. You can talk about the climate change impacts that are coming, and how renewables are one way of mitigating them, but you really have to focus on the local benefits in order to get people on board with having renewable energy in their communities, viewsheds, or backyards.

Right now, people are more focused on the perceived negative impacts from renewable energy installations than from climate change. But as a science-based organization, we feel we need more evidence. Can we develop a conservation plan that satisfies the renewable standards in an existing grasslands habitat management plan? Or can we only set aside agricultural lands and ensure that those remain in active production or are eased in some way to keep them preserved?

As we prepare for an outreach campaign focusing on renewable energy, we want to find people in these communities who are more objective and are willing to consider evidence about impacts before making a decision about whether or not to allow renewables in their communities.

Framing the issue

If you look at the back of our renewables guide, there is a list of all the things we are already seeing happening in the Hudson Valley in terms of climate change impacts, but the real focus is not necessarily on climate change and its impacts, but on embracing renewable energy as something we can develop here in the Hudson Valley as a model for responding to climate change in other regions.

As a land trust, we are in a unique position, and we have an opportunity to communicate that role: we are a conservation organization with a mission to protect land, and these lands are now being impacted by climate change. It goes back to think global, act local, and land trusts are the very leading edge of that.

Climate-communication takeaways

A lot of land trusts may still be at a point where they are deciding whether or not they want to include climate change in their mission area, in terms of adaptation, mitigation, or both. But I can’t imagine that there are any land trusts that aren’t experiencing impacts. Whether you are in the Northeast and are seeing more frequent and larger rain events, or if you are out west and being impacted by those horrible fires. The advice is: You can’t avoid it, so the most important thing is to start the conversation and not be afraid that people don’t want to hear it.

Other land trusts should think about the fact that they already serve as a kind of mitigating entity by protecting land from development. Responding to climate change is a natural evolution of this role, and needs to be taken on to protect the lands we have worked hard to preserve.