LAND PROTECTION: DOING DOUBLE DUTY
Protecting forests can do “double duty” by helping to maintain clean water (which is primarily the Foundation’s interest), while providing climate and other benefits at the same time:
- Offsetting impacts from a changing climate: protected forests captures carbon in the atmosphere, “cleaning” our air while providing the oxygen we need to live.
- Downstream flood relief: forested landscapes reduce stormwater runoff and flooding, which is increasingly likely due to climate change.
- Habitat resiliency: protecting natural habitats helps species to withstand climate change impacts.
- Direct heat relief: trees and forests provide shading and direct relief from extreme heat.
- Human well-being: immersing yourself in nature contributes to healthier mental and physical states – something we might all appreciate now more than ever after this past year of extreme COVID-19 stress. Where natural lands can be protected in close proximity to major metro areas, they also offer important green space access for millions of people, which in turn helps drive local economies.
PRIMED & READY TO LEAN IN ON 30 BY 30
As the Administration advances its 30 by 30 program, the Mid-Atlantic offers great opportunities to harness and expand work already underway to protect critical natural lands that can contribute to this ambitious protection goal. In our watershed, we’ve already invested more than $125 million to support a major nonprofit-driven effort called the Delaware River Watershed Initiative (DRWI) that protects mature forests and restores agricultural land focused on protecting and restoring water quality.
The strength of this Initiative comes from dozens of capable partner organizations who know their local communities well and have experience with successfully protecting land and working with farmers on best practices for their working lands. With this structure in place, including strong land trusts who have already developed pipelines of priority lands eligible for conservation, the Delaware Basin is primed to fast-track land protection efforts to significantly help deliver on the Administration’s 30 by 30 goals; and as my colleague Nathan Boon noted in his previous post, this pipeline of eligible projects could provide job opportunities through programs like the Civilian Climate Corps. Although the prominence of small land parcel ownership typical of the Mid-Atlantic might appear at first glance to be challenging, we’re already working with our grantees to overcome such hurdles. For example, we’re supporting grantees to experiment with forest carbon co-ops which can aggregate small forest parcels, protecting them in perpetuity and expanding carbon uptake as the trees continue to grow.