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The Nature Conservancy’s Strategies for Climate Change
Chris Topik — Director, Restoring America’s Forests, North American Region, The Nature Conservancy

The Nature Conservancy is one of the world’s leading conservation organizations, working in 33 nations with a large and dedicated staff in the United States implementing a broad array of conservation work. Our mission is to conserve the lands and waters on which all life depends. We are now focused on a new global framework that provides a discrete set of strategies to respond to global challenges we all face: conserving critical lands; securing fresh water; restoring our oceans, and reducing the impacts of climate change. As one of the largest private land owners in the United States our land stewards have the opportunity to pioneer many innovative land use practices to help maintain habitats, including forests, so our lands and waters can be more resilient to climate change stresses.

In the United States we remain concerned by the likelihood climate change will greatly impact nature, by changing normal stresses that help shape our natural communities, such as fire and disease. We recognize that long term forecasts suggest in a few decades we will see dramatic reductions in the ability of America’s forests to sequester carbon, so it is vital we figure out how to make forests adapt in order to keep forests as major carbon mitigation tool. Sample efforts in the United States include:
  • Our North America priority project, Restoring America’s Forests, includes 13 large forest restoration demonstration sites, sitting in 22 states that focus on federal forest management that fosters community engagement, science applications and collaboration to foster projects and planning that make forests more resilient in the face of disturbances and extreme natural processes, such as unnaturally extreme wildfires. Project areas include the Southern Blue Ridge area (TN, NC, SC), central and southern Oregon, the northern Sierra Nevada range (CA), the Colorado front range, Arkansas shortleaf pine and oak forests, and the longleaf pine in the southeast, among others.

  • Our leadership in the Fire Learning Network provides communities, local agencies, and various industry and conservation practitioners the tools to better understand and use beneficial fire to promote ecosystem resiliency that benefit the places where people live. We are co-leaders of the Fire Adapted Communities Learning Network, which now has 17 pilot communities across the United States. These locally-driven partnerships are determining which combinations of tools are most effective in certain social and ecological contexts to best support an individual community’s efforts to become more fire adapted over time.
Firefighters on the Beaver Creek Fire USDA photo by Lance Cheung.
  • The Southwest Climate Change Initiative enhances science-management partnerships in the Four Corner states and focuses on managing for change while searching for ways to increase the pace and scale of conservation activities. We are working on innovative funding tools to support projects to enhance water security for large population centers that depend on healthy forests so they can resist damage from increased, unnaturally damaging wildfires.

  • Other efforts, such as in the Northeast, are providing resiliency analysis that identify focal regions that will best promote regional resilience to stress. This helps us prioritize projects that help manage essential core forests and linkages areas that will presumably foster species movement as climate change affects various species at differential rates.
The Nature Conservancy recognizes that climate change is affecting nearly everything we do and impacts all the aspects of nature. A substantial effort outside of the Unites States is focused on demonstrating low-carbon development models can be successfully implemented at a large scale, thereby enhancing the maintenance of forests vital as carbon sequestration engines.We are deeply engaged in these efforts to reduce deforestation and degradation in places such as in Indonesia, Mexico, and Brazil. We also see that climate change is exacerbating disasters that can have tremendous, negative impacts on nature and society, so we help develop and advocate for green infrastructure solutions that can be economically efficient and reduce disaster risk to people, water, and wildlife.
 
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