Group Works to Find, Preserve NW Areas Resilient to Warming Climate
VANCOUVER, Wash. – As climate change worsens, certain landscapes could become refuges from the most dramatic effects to nature. One conservation group is looking to harness the power of those areas by protecting them. The Nature Conservancy has created maps covering more than 350,000 square miles of land in the Northwest that it has identified as especially resilient in the decades to come.
With the help of $6 million from the Doris Duke Charitable Foundation, the group works with local land trusts to protect these lands.
Dan Roix, conservation director for the Columbia Land Trust, says climate change is already affecting the region.
"It's one of the main stressors that's impacting wildlife habitat and nature across our region, and that's happening in a number of different ways, obviously starting with high temperatures, which are impacting water temperatures, which impact fish and aquatic ecology," he explained.
Roix's group is receiving $700,000 from The Nature Conservancy to preserve a region near the Klickitat River. Organizations must match the conservancy's funding five to one. The funds are used to purchase private lands or work with owners on use-limiting easements.
Ken Popper is a senior conservation planner with The Nature Conservancy. He says climate change will mean big shifts for many species. Rather than running climate models over the next few decades, the conservancy identified areas in the Northwest that were most diverse in terms of soil, slope and elevation - qualities that aren't likely to change even as the climate changes.
Popper says the lands that will hold up the best are those with the most "micro-habitats."
"And those places can both serve as refugia for species that are there now or, in some ways, opportunities for a species in the future," he said.
Most of the resiliency mapping in the Northwest covered Oregon, Washington and Idaho.