Tag Archives: climate

Won’t you be my conservation neighbor?

Let’s say you’re the head of a land trust with a detailed map outlining the network of lands and waters you need to protect so that fish, wildlife, and natural splendor may endure in your community for generations to come. If the next town over decided to site a housing development on priority habitat just beyond your group’s boundary, would that affect wildlife movement within? Would you even learn about the plan in time to suggest an alternative?

The 12 Rivers Initiative isn’t waiting for the ominous rumble of bulldozers in the distance. Last year, the Maine-based conservation partnership applied for a grant from the Open Space Institute (OSI) to reexamine their long-term conservation planning through the lens of regional climate data. The objective wasn’t just to refine conservation priorities within their boundaries; it was to better align with conservation priorities outside of them.


Anna Fiedler from the Midcoast Conservancy shares a new map developed using climate data with members of neighboring land trusts to identify opportunities to connect. Credit: 12 Rivers Initiative

“We saw this as an opportunity to approach land trusts at the edges of our landscape to talk about where conservation corridors should go once they leave our map,” said Anna Fiedler, Director of Conservation for Midcoast Conservancy, one of the eight land trusts that comprise the 12 Rivers partnership.

12 Rivers is one example of how conservation groups working across a relatively small area are having a meaningful impact on the larger landscape by incorporating climate change into long-term planning. Building on its partnership with the North Atlantic Landscape Conservation Cooperative, OSI is now offering support for land trusts across the eastern United States, helping them integrate climate change into their conservation plans through workshops and outreach support available across the region in partnership with the Land Trust Alliance.

With guidance from Gillian Davies of the BSC group, Fiedler’s colleague Ruth Indrick, Project Coordinator at Kennebec Estuary Land Trust, created a map highlighting overlapping priority areas identified by combining the Terrestrial Resilience and Regional Flow datasets developed by The Nature Conservancy and the Index of Ecological Integrity developed by the Designing Sustainable Landscapes Project at UMass Amherst. Together these datasets can help practitioners identify sites in the Northeast with characteristics necessary to support biodiversity and wildlife movement into the future, and all three are available for anyone to access in the Land Protection in a Changing Climate gallery in the North Atlantic LCC’s Conservation Planning Atlas.


The 12 Rivers Initiative created a new conservation plan designed to support habitat for wildlife and community needs, like working lands and recreation, across an 825,000-acre landscape in Maine using the best available data in the region.

Idrick and Fiedler then presented this co-occurrence model along with individual maps depicting each dataset at a workshop for staff from all eight land trusts of 12 Rivers, as well as for those along the boundaries.

“We talked about what we envisioned for planning, shared maps with the lands committee at each land trust so they could ground truth what the models showed, and agreed to reexamine the edges and corridors with new information provided by our neighbors.” said Fiedler. “Mapping is a great tool, but it’s important to use local knowledge to put it to the test.”

It’s also good diplomacy. “The conversation really strengthened our relationships with the land trusts at our borders,” she said.

The map has provided scientific reinforcement for the direction the partnership is heading. “The data showed us that we already had a solid conservation plan in place, but by making sure it is aligned with new knowledge, it shows that we are looking ahead,” said Fiedler. “That’s really valuable when going to donors and funders.”

While 12 Rivers is still in the process of realigning its conservation plan based on input from partners and neighbors, the mapping exercise itself has initiated important conversations as the partnership looks ahead. “We are seeing now that the bulk of the effort moving forward will be communicating about it,” said Fiedler. “We are incorporating more climate change context into our work, and we are looking for ways to talk about it that keeps a range of different people engaged, without using the kinds of buzzwords that can close the conversation.”


Staff and board members from the 12 Rivers partner land trusts take part in a role-playing activity to practice engaging different kinds of people in conversations about climate. Credit: 12 Rivers Initiative

In addition to addressing sensitivity to language, they are trying to make it real for their members. Fiedler explained that during a second workshop, in which they shared the maps with board members and staff from all 12 Rivers partner land trusts, they also asked attendees to take part in a role-playing activity. Everyone paired up and pretended to be either a skeptical landowner or a member of a land trust who was trying to convince that landowner it was critical to conserve his or her property.

“Most people didn’t even use the phrase ‘climate change’ in their conversations,” explained Fiedler. “Rather, they said that finding some common ground with the other person was the best way to get through to them.”

It seems just like in productive conservation, productive communication demands meeting people on their terms, even if that’s beyond where your own map ends.

Since the staffs of land trusts within 12 Rivers approach donors and community members as representatives of their own organizations, it’s important that they are equipped with consistent messages about the climate data at the foundation of their shared plan. As such, Fiedler said the circuit rider helped them develop initial messaging about their work based on research from the Yale Program on Climate Communication. OSI is considering providing further support to 12 Rivers to advance their climate communications.

“It’s wonderful to have that kind of support,” said Fiedler. “I’m glad they understand that communication is critical to long-term planning.”

Storm proofers: Preparing a New Jersey refuge for the next big event

Great Swamp National Wildlife Refuge

When Hurricane Sandy hit at the end of October, 2012, the refuge staff at Great Swamp National Wildlife Refuge in Basking Ridge, N.J., just 26 miles west of Manhattan’s Times Square, thought they were prepared. Winter hadn’t yet fully kicked in, and most of its buildings were equipped with generators that would provide backup power.

But no one expected that the severity of damage to the regional power grid would leave the refuge and general area without electricity for nearly two weeks. With numerous blocked roads and regional fuel shortages, trucks scheduled to deliver propane and diesel fuel were delayed, adding additional stress to an already difficult situation.

“We had to go as far as Pennsylvania to get fuel for the generators,” says refuge manager Bill Koch. “Some local gas stations that had fuel and the power to pump it were rationing at limits insufficient to our needs.”

Hurricane Sandy Damages at Great Swamp NWR

A tree blown down by the storm falls on electrical power lines at the refuge. (Credit: David Sagan/USFWS)

Faced with the likelihood that there will be more frequent, intense storms like Hurricane Sandy in years to come, Koch and his staff have been planning and preparing the refuge for the next big one. Thanks to funding from the Disaster Relief Appropriations Act of 2013, a propane tank at the refuge’s visitor center will be replaced by a permanent natural gas pipeline that will feed furnaces and generators. Solar-powered systems will be installed at headquarters and the visitor center. A gas line and generators will also be installed at the refuge’s dormitory and one of the living quarters. These measures will assure both uninterrupted heat and emergency electricity for headquarters, the dormitory, staff housing and the visitor center.

A rooftop solar array similar to the one pictured here is being designed and installed at the Great Swamp visitor center, which will make its electrical system more resilient to future storms. (Credit: USFWS)

A rooftop solar array similar to the one pictured here is being designed and installed at the Great Swamp visitor center, which will make its electrical system more resilient to future storms. (Credit: USFWS)

The headquarters and visitor center solar-powered systems will be installed on new metal roofs which will be more durable, longer-lasting and recyclable. A small diesel generator will be installed at a heated public restroom, to prevent the recurrence of frozen pipes.

“We are in the planning and design stage of doing everything we can to become more self-sufficient,” says Koch.

To learn more about the U.S. Fish and Wildlife Service’s Hurricane Sandy recovery and resilience projects, visit our Hurricane Sandy Recovery page. For more about Great Swamp National Wildlife Refuge, click here.

Tagged red knot. Mispillion Harbor, Delaware. Credit: Gregory Breese/USFWS

Ever see a red knot in action?

Our videographers Keith Shannon and Beth Decker took a road trip from our Hadley, Mass., office down to the Delaware Bay to catch these amazing shorebirds in action.

Red knots are ruddy-breasted shorebirds just about the size of a robin. On wingspans of 20 inches, red knots fly more than 9,300 miles from south to north every spring and repeat the trip in reverse every autumn. When they make their last major stop at Delaware Bay, they must nearly double their weight to make the last leg to the Arctic. One bird, called B95 after his leg band number, has been nicknamed the Moonbird, as researchers figure his 20 or more years of migrations would have taken him to the moon and at least halfway back.

Scientists in countries across the shorebird’s range share concern for the red knot and expect the species to be particularly affected by global climate change, which will be greatest at the latitudes where it breeds and winters.

It’s more important than ever to know understand this species, which is why our biologists are studying the birds to figure out exactly where they go when they leave the U.S. Hear how they do it in this post by biologists Stephanie Koch and Susi vonOettingen, “Linking red knots from Monomoy to Cuba and beyond.” Furl, smear, jiggle, twinkle and fire. It’s all in a day of red knot banding.

Read two recent news stories on the red knot, from The Washington Post and McClatchy Newspapers.