Reflections for land trusts, November 2022
As we head into the election it will be telling to see where we end up as a country, and as a state, in relation to slowing down climate change and finding common ground. I’m keeping my fingers crossed that the NYS Bond Act will pass with flying colors.
Regardless, there’s an opportunity for land trusts to stand out and continue their effort to make a difference. Innovation has long been seen as “the American way,” and the work of land trusts is no exception.
No longer is land conservation a narrowly focused transaction-based approach.
Today’s land trusts are now defined by innovation, holistic thinking, evolving science, strategic risk-taking, ramping up the pace, and becoming more inclusive.
The Inflation Reduction Act provides additional opportunities for nonprofits, including land trusts, to innovate around climate solutions. You will find incentives that address nature-based and agricultural solutions as well as room to expand on compatible renewable energy.
As part of this effort, I’m looking for examples of land trusts working to establish elevated solar projects to demonstrate how this approach is an important tool for agricultural viability and can enhance soil health and support vulnerable pollinators.
If you know of land trusts thinking about this, let me know. I’d like to talk to them to learn more.
Reflections from Judy, October 2022
There’s been so much in the news about climate change over the last month that it’s been a challenge to decide what to share with you in this issue.
Nature-based climate solutions continue to be of strong interest to land conservationists, communities, and farmers. There’s a growing opportunity to tap into these evolving practices as well as changes in management.
Farmers, healthy soils, and regenerative agriculture are now widely seen as part of the climate solution, with funding provided by the Inflation Reduction Act (scroll down if you click on that link).
As part of this effort, given the pace needed for change and the increasing stress on American agriculture, states and municipalities across the country are exploring ways to integrate solar as a tool for soil health, farm viability, and water management. Land trusts and communities are increasing their efforts to lead in this direction as well.
You are part of this change, too.
By helping those you know understand how natural climate solutions and compatible renewable energy is connected, we can collectively step up the pace to conserve the land that matters to many while ensuring its viability for generations to come.
Reflections for land trusts, October 2022
As I send this eNews to you, I’ve been thinking a lot about all those impacted by extreme weather.
With climate change exacerbating droughts, floods, and storms, many find themselves at risk in ways they never have before.
And it’s not only humans at risk. We are in the midst of a global species extinction, farm animals are dying at an alarming rate, and family pets are more vulnerable to diseases and pathogens.
It’s pretty intense.
That’s why I’m so thankful for land trusts taking action.
When I set out to create this eNews years ago, I did so because I wanted to help elevate both the need and the actions of the conservation community in addressing climate change. Now, one hundred issues later, there is clearly a shift underway.
Land trusts are now thinking more holistically and outside the box, taking strategic risks, and prioritizing climate action by taking the time to learn.
We, as a diverse community of those who care, represent a wide swath of people across the country at a time when coming together is more important than ever. Thank you.
Reflections from Judy, September 2022
I hope this email finds you well. I’ve been thinking a lot about climate change of late and want you to know how much I appreciate you.
I’ve been fortunate to spend a week away, at one of my favorite places.
I’m looking out the window, watching the tide go out from Swan’s Island, Maine. There’s an eagle that periodically flys by. The lobster boats putter past. And the soft, rhythmic flashing of the lighthouse across the cove blinks in the fog.
It’s hard to know, sitting here, that Maine is experiencing some of the fastest warming from climate change in the world. Yet there are signs for those who look around.
That’s true throughout the country. We can see the growing impact of climate change if we slow down and look around us, no matter where we live or where we go.
Sometimes land conservationists ask me why they should advocate for energy conservation efforts or find ways to link compatible renewables to their conservation work when they are so busy working to conserve the lands we all cherish.
It’s a valid question.
It’s a question that rests on a dwindling window of time to stop the climate pollution that is driving the extreme weather, and the related impacts that go along with it.
Natural climate solutions are of critical importance, yet over time, as the stresses increase on natural systems, their impacts will diminish — and plants and animals (as well as humans) will face increasingly challenging situations.
That’s why it’s encouraging to see the land conservation community begin to help their communities recognize that compatible renewable energy and energy conservation is central to their commitment to long-term conservation work.
With the passage of the Inflation Reduction Act, there is an opportunity for land and water conservationists, and those who care, to team up with renewable energy groups to make it support farm viability rather than blanket the landscape in solar and taking that land out of production.
The timing couldn’t be better as the window for meaningful action could impact those we care about for generations to come.
Reflections for land trusts, September 2022
I want to share a bit of good news with you.
With the newly passed Inflation Reduction Act, there are significant opportunities to increase the pace of nature-based climate solutions (woodland/forest/wetland conservation, soil health, etc.) and increase renewable energy.
That’s the good news.
Now comes the vision. “Blanket solar” (my term for traditional ground-mounted solar that covers the land in a blanket) is likely to become the de facto norm unless communities, and conservation organizations, demand more creative and responsive solar projects.
Traditional ground-mounted solar is convenient and can often be installed in a way that works with pollinators. And we need more pollinator habitats, for sure.
But we also need to treat our farmland — and our farmers — with respect and face the reality that climate change is making farming harder, not easier.
That’s why I continue to advocate for elevated solar (solar that’s at least six feet off the ground), or solar that can be managed to tilt upward to allow large animals to graze underneath. We need to ensure that solar installations can be part of soil health, water management, farmland viability, and new farmer economic development.
That’s where there is increasingly more good news: land trusts are recognizing that there’s a new way to make a difference. They are working on natural climate solutions, promoting energy conservation incentives (so we need less energy overall), and sharing the vision of what solar could be… all as part of their mission to conserve land for generations.
Just as community conservation is no longer seen as mission creep, no longer is an integrated approach to climate change action viewed as a waste of time and focus. In fact, given the critical nature of climate change impacts on soil, habitats, farms, water, and communities, it’s likely the most important thing conservation groups can do.
Hats off to the land trusts helping to lead the way.
Reflections from Judy, August 2022
Have you been following what the new Inflation Reduction Act means for your region, your climate change work, and local and regional conservation efforts?
As land trusts increasingly think about how they can amplify the importance of slowing down climate change, including supporting energy conservation and compatible renewables, this new legislation is worth a look.
That’s true for its impact on nature-based climate solutions, too.
I think you’ll find this article from the Bipartisan Policy Center helpful in summarizing the funding sources and strategies within the bill.
Our next challenge will be to figure out how the funding is distributed, including how conservation groups and communities can tap into these funds in a timely manner. You may want to contact your legislative leaders to let them know how important these funds are to the change you are working towards — and while you’re talking to them, inquire as to how that can happen ASAP.
This is potentially a game-changer. Now we need to make sure we are part of the “game.”
Reflections for land trusts, August 2022
I don’t know about where you are, but it’s too dang hot here today. We are expecting temperatures of almost 100 degrees.
More and more, summer is a difficult time for people, wildlife, and farms. With the erratic jet stream — increasingly caused by melting ice — we are experiencing heat domes, droughts, and extreme weather.
There was a recent article talking about how summer is becoming more hazardous because of extreme heat and related weather challenges.
For those who can relocate or “summer” in cooler and more stable weather, it’s an inconvenience. For others, it can be much more devastating.
The impact, of course, goes beyond humans. Wildlife and farm animals are more vulnerable than ever to extreme flooding, fires, and drought. There is no question that we have entered a different pattern of climate. Our choice, therefore, is to act so as to decisively slow it down.
That means that land trusts and conservation groups will need to advocate for climate solutions beyond nature-based approaches, just like they do for conservation funding and policies. No longer can climate change be seen as “not my job”; too much is at stake.
And the solutions are all around us, we just need to prioritize them.
The good news is that land trusts are increasingly aware of this challenge and are picking up the pace to talk about and implement solutions that will benefit communities and the lands and waters important to their identity and survival.
Others are beginning to promote the need for elevated solar and agrivoltaics (solar that’s been designed to work with farms, soil health, water management, and farm viability) as part of the solution to protecting crops, pastures, livestock, and soils from extreme heat and erratic weather.
Indeed, the concept of “flash droughts” is becoming well-established. Farmland without water is an increasing risk no matter where you are in the country. Corn, soybeans, vegetables, and orchards are all feeling the stress; agrivoltaics (often elevated solar) could make a difference.
This is why I think you will appreciate the leadership of land trusts like Conserving Carolina (featured below), and Coastal Rivers, who are making it clear that an integrated approach matters.
I appreciate your willingness to think outside the box, recognize that past paradigms need to shift, and see that we have a tremendous opportunity to slow down climate change.
Reflections from Judy, July 2022
I hope this email finds you to be OK.
With extreme weather occurring across this country and indeed the world, it is unfair to assume that anyone is OK. Omnicron, of course, makes this even more true. Climate anxiety, combined with economic uncertainty, adds another layer.
That’s why I’m prioritizing checking in with friends, family, and colleagues more than ever.
To me, the extreme weather serves as a cry for action, a warning of what we can address or ignore. It is our moral choice, as well as an ethical imperative that we step forward and amplify the change that needs to happen. Nature, farms, and our communities need us to take action; there are people and animals whose voices are not heard nor valued.
One of the speakers you might appreciate is Dr. Michael Mann. Dr. Mann is a climate scientist who, in addition to his ground-breaking research, is also a widely-respected climate communicator.
I recommend you watch this short interview he had with CNN this week about the extreme weather and the connections between climate change, its drivers, and what can be done. It might be something you can share with friends, family, and colleagues.
For conservation organizations, it is an opportunity to focus on climate drivers and climate solutions.
Thank you for caring and for being responsive and adaptive to the solutions to climate change.
Reflections from Judy, June 2022
How have you been experiencing a changing climate of late?
For me, this past May was notable for a number of reasons. I traveled to New Mexico to be part of the Land Trust Alliance training team for executive directors. This was the first time in two-and-a-half years that I had flown. It was, as you might expect, a semi-nightmare as extreme weather caused flight cancellations. It took me almost 36 hours to reach Santa Fe.
Fires were raging, with hundreds of firefighters staying in the area. Every time we saw a firefighter we thanked them.
Then, there was the announcement, per The New York Times, that “the concentration of [carbon dioxide] gas reached nearly 421 parts per million in May, the peak for the year, as power plants, vehicles, farms, and other sources around the world continued to pump huge amounts of carbon dioxide into the atmosphere. Emissions totaled 36.3 billion tons in 2021, the highest level in history.
“As the amount of carbon dioxide increases, the planet keeps warming — with effects like increased flooding, more extreme heat, drought, and worsening wildfires that are already being experienced by millions of people worldwide.”
Oy. And that’s just two of many revelations.
There are those who throw up their hands and say, “Whatever…” And I know it’s overwhelming and often frustrating.
I too wonder what difference I am making. Yet we can’t give up.
We have a moral obligation to work together to transition to compatible renewables and find climate solutions that will support the lands, waters, communities, and people we love. We have a window of time to lead, to recognize that old paradigms of what it means to be a land conservationist, or a community member, are shifting.
There is urgency. And there are solutions. There is funding. And there’s opportunity. We just need to knit them together.
Reflections for land trusts, May 2022
Remember the song with the line, “Oh, the weather outside is frightful…“? Yes, it’s from Let it Snow! and it’s been in my head lately. Not because of the snow, but rather the crazy weather we’ve been experiencing.
Here in upstate New York, we’ve had fifty-degree temperature swings in two days. That’s not great if you suffer from migraines that are triggered by pressure differentials; it’s not great for a lot of reasons.
But here’s the thing: an estimated 72% of Americans believe climate change is real. That’s hopeful.
With the growing urgency to transition off fossil fuels — and finding ways for renewables to work with lands and waters, while accelerating land protection, restoration, and natural climate solutions — funding is increasing in various ways.
Check out New Jersey, New York, Illinois, and Minnesota. There are more examples, for sure. Here’s a list of Funding Opportunities from the U.S. Climate Resilience Tool Kit. And agriculture — as one of the highest stressed industries by climate change — is also leaning in. The USDA will invest $1 billion in climate-smart commodities, expanding markets, and strengthening rural America
The question is, how are land trusts helping their communities take advantage of these opportunities? How agile are the conservation groups in your region to shift, grow, adapt, and persuade in a changing landscape?
How might you help elevate new thinking and new approaches to climate solutions to increase people’s commitment to making timely, and impactful, change?
You can start by sharing climate solutions on social media and connecting to what people care about. You might find one of the examples below something that could inspire hope or change.
If you’d like more ideas about solution-based, conservation-related, examples check out hundreds of examples on my website. The reason Kate Belton and I continue to provide this email, and catalog the articles online, is to make it easy for you to share climate solutions and encourage new thinking and leadership from land conservation organizations.
Thanks for caring, and sharing, about how land trusts are working to slow down climate change.