For land trusts in the Sierra Nevada and Cascade region, the drought, flooding, and catastrophic wildfires of the past several years have brought the climate crisis into stark relief. Of the ten largest fires ever in California, eight have occurred since 2010, and three were in 2020. Recently, the 14 land trusts and six larger conservation organizations that are part of the Sierra Cascade Land Trust Council worked together to create a strategic conservation plan for the region. Accelerating strategic conservation in the Sierra Cascade is crucial for ensuring that the region’s forests, waters, wildlife, and working lands are part of the solution to the climate crisis. This means protecting more land and water and it means actively managing land to promote health and resilience. Developing a regional conservation plan involved both data-driven assessment of conservation impacts and thoughtful stakeholder engagement and consensus-building. Building stronger collaborations with Indigenous groups to foster social justice and to restore traditional burning practices to reduce the risk of catastrophic fires emerged as a strong priority in the conservation plan. This session will show participants how land trusts can work together to create tools and a shared vision that will help them work together to accelerate the pace and scale of conservation and increase climate resilience.
Eastern Brook Trout are a poster child for the direct impacts of climate change. When stream temperatures stay above 20 degrees Celsius for more than a few hours, brook trout either have to find colder water or die. Is there a coldwater stream on your property or a property you seek to protect? Will the aquatic habitat and its key species survive the effects of climate change? Can you take steps to help secure future water supplies and habitat productivity? Cold water ecosystems that support trout are at high risk from climate change. Without action almost 50% of trout habitat is projected to be lost in the western United States. Addressing this challenge requires land managers take steps to understand the status of streams on their properties through data collection, and developing strategies for removing barriers to fish migration and restoring or improving habitat. This session will detail how the science and land conservancy programs of Trout Unlimited are assisting land trusts in identifying, documenting and then protecting land with critical coldwater habitat. These partnerships involve citizen science and the development and implementation of habitat restoration and adaptation plans. Land trusts and TU have used both professionals and volunteers to collect important data on stream ecology, flood vulnerability and stream geomorphology to design and implement restoration projects to mitigate climate risks.
Increasingly, land trusts are discovering the power of bolstering their stewardship toolkits with new technologies and perspectives. Remote monitoring has helped stewardship teams to respond quickly to threats to conserved land and track longer-term impacts on changing landscapes, ensuring that land trusts can uphold the promise of protecting land in perpetuity. In this session, we will share practical tips to help you implement a successful remote monitoring program. We will cover how to identify the optimal technology and vendor to suit your needs, review imagery and document your findings, evaluate the return on investment of a remote monitoring program, and keep landowners engaged throughout the process. We will also provide information about upcoming grant opportunities that can help your land trust to try new remote monitoring approaches.
Have you ever wondered if your community would be a good candidate for a community forest? Are you curious to learn more about what potential benefits could result from the community forest model and how others are finding success in this model of ownership and management? This session will begin with an introduction to the community forest model. This will include an overview of the U.S. Forest Service’s Community Forest and Open Space Program, as well as the program’s eligibility requirements and application process. The session will also provide insight about the economic benefits of community forests, drawing on over a dozen examples of projects across the country that have been compiled as part of a recent case study report about the economic benefits of community forests. The highlighted community forest examples will showcase different landowner types (e.g., local government, NGO, and tribal), economic benefits (e.g., recreation, tourism, water quality, climate change mitigation) and community types (e.g. rural, suburban, and urban). The session will then include a deep-dive with a community forest practitioner into a specific community forest initiative and the impact it has had on the local community. The team will also provide information about where to learn more about the community forest process and economic benefits, including links to resources such as the recent report completed by The Trust for Public Land in partnership with the U.S. Forest Service and in consultation with a number of NGO and philanthropic partners with community forest related expertise.
Land trusts and public Purchase of Agricultural Conservation Easement (PACE) programs already excel at protecting farmland and ranchland. But increasingly, practitioners are searching for tools to encourage, incentivize or require management practices on that land that will provide greater ecosystem benefits such as clean water, carbon sequestration, and wildlife habitat. This workshop will explore the pros and cons of various strategies, from conservation or management plan requirements to ecological overlay easements to separate management contracts or affirmative covenants. We'll also explore a new concept that uses a tenancy-in-common approach. We'll discuss challenges around valuation, financing and monitoring, and will look at some research underway to develop an alternative easement valuation tool that captures market value of ecosystem benefits. This is an exciting and evolving area of programing for agricultural land protection practitioners; come with your own examples and questions!
Land trusts are an increasingly popular and proven mechanism to protect private lands, create climate resiliency in protected areas, and conserve wildlife within these habitats. In light of a 2019 paper in the journal Science that finds a net population loss of almost three billion birds since 1970, supporting the efforts of land trusts with implementation of practices on private lands can make a significant difference. The Cornell Lab of Ornithology believes land trusts can help birds, and birds can benefit land trusts. This workshop will introduce the Cornell Land Trust Bird Conservation Initiative and how its various resources can help foster partnerships and reach diverse audiences. We will teach about birding tools such as eBird, introduce a grant program, and showcase success stories from Tall Timbers Research Station & Land Conservancy and the Conservation Foundation of the Gulf Coast – all illustrating how birds can be useful in making decisions about your conservation investments, engage new and diverse communities, and accelerate and amplify conservation and land stewardship on land trust properties and easements.
This session serves as an introduction for land trusts to use the concept of climate resilience in land protection and stewardship. Most land trusts periodically complete a strategic plan, which includes an analysis and subjective list of priority parcels for protection in their service area. In this session, you will learn how to let climate resilience guide planning and implementation more objectively. Geared for (and taught by) both land protection and stewardship staff, we will cover the genesis and development of a service area-wide strategic conservation plan. Our most ambitious planning effort to date, this process involved not only staff and consultants, but volunteers, board members, and valued community partners. In the second half of the presentation, we will share a collaborative stewardship project in the implementation stage - from pixels on a map to a hands-on project. This project with five partner organizations used restoration of forest communities as the focal system for climate adaptation and future resilience. This geographic area in the Midwest, known as the "tension zone," is the historical delineation between southern and northern species, driven by climate. This landscape and set of partnerships make an ideal setting for exploring issues of assisted migration of tree species, reforestation, forest pests, and restoration genetics. For land trusts that have not yet engaged in organization-wide climate resilience planning, this session will teach you why climate resilience is a useful filter for prioritizing projects and getting them done. Furthermore, it provides examples and inspiration to move from talk on climate change to on-the-ground action.
All 50 states have adopted some form of a Recreational Use Act that provide qualified immunity for premises liability to landowners of outdoor recreation land. The acts vary in scope and applicability, but typically cover fee-simple land owned by a land trust and managed for public recreation. These acts are powerful tools for attorneys representing land trusts in premises liability cases, and they are an important incentive for private landowners to keep their land available for outdoor recreation. This session will discuss the reasons why these acts were passed, the common differences in scope and applicability between the states, and which activities are commonly included by or excluded from these acts.