The Role of Land Conservation in Fighting Climate Change

The climate crisis often evokes images of coal-burning power plants, oil rigs drilling for fossil fuels, and congested roadways filled with gas-guzzling vehicles.

But what about the land that surrounds us?

The Intergovernmental Panel on Climate Change (IPCC) has told us that we are in the fight of our lives to limit global warming to 1.5 degrees Celsius above pre-industrial levels. Land plays an important role in the climate system and is already under growing pressure from human impacts.

In their most recent special report, scientists describe how agriculture, deforestation, desertification and other human activities have altered 70% of the land on the Earth’s surface. Not only are these changes contributing to a warming climate, they are also reducing the ability of forests and other natural systems to store greenhouse gases that drive climate change.  

And, to make matters worse, climate change exacerbates land degradation through increases in extreme weather, rainfall intensity, flooding, drought frequency and intensity, heat stress, wind, and sea-level rise. Science tells us these natural hazards will continue to impact our land, people’s health, and our economies.

The IPCC report calls out some key land use recommendations for policymakers to consider in the near term in order to maintain land productivity, increase food security, and reduce greenhouse gas emissions, including:

  • Reduce deforestation and forest degradation
  • Increase the use of sustainable farming techniques
  • Decrease reliance on meat-based diets 
  • Strengthen indigenous land ownership rights
  • Eliminate food waste

Most importantly, the report highlights that scientists, policymakers, and land managers know enough about these recommendations and their impact on our climate that the time to act and create meaningful change is now.

So, what can we do?

At Mass Audubon, our land conservation strategy is directly linked to climate change mitigation and adaptation. As the largest private land owner in Massachusetts with more than 38,000 acres protected, we know how critical land conservation and effective land management is in the age of climate change.

Our recent entry in the California Air Resources Board (CARB) carbon offset market ensures that 10,000 acres of forested land will be protected for the next 100 years, ensuring the carbon stored in this critical landscape remains there.

At our Drumlin Farm and Moose Hill wildlife sanctuaries, we practice community-based sustainable farming because of our deep commitment to the people, land, water, and air that enable our food system to thrive.

And, throughout our advocacy work at the state and local levels, we continue to advocate for the protection of forests, farmlands, and critical wildlife habitat. 

You can be part of our land conservation efforts by protecting land in your community and supporting our efforts to address climate change through effective land protection, advocacy, education, and more.  In your own life, you can reduce your carbon footprint by eating less meat, reducing your food waste, and supporting local, sustainable farmers when you shop.

A Wake-Up Call

This new report is yet another bold wake-up call that we must act now to address the consequences of climate change–many of which we are already seeing today and will only increase in severity in the coming decades.

But, we must also remember that this is not all doom and gloom. As conservationists and land managers, we know the solutions are deeply embedded within our work. It is on all of us to answer this call to action with even more tenacity and urgency than ever before.  

3 thoughts on “The Role of Land Conservation in Fighting Climate Change

  1. g. biermann

    Hello Folks,

    For the past 4 or so years now the property at 57 Perkins Row, Topsfield, Massachusetts has been in front of the various Topsfield boards with a variety of development plans for this very sensitive location directly on the fragile Ipswich River.

    The projects have changed along with ownerships of the property. The most recent owner and developer has submitted plans for a huge, environmentally destructive condo development that would wipeout almost all living plant, aquatic and land animal life, vernal pool habitants, watershed surfaces along with destroying the designated “scenic route” of Perkins Row and the neighborhood. The impact and demise of everything “country” is mind-numbing….the increase in traffic congestion with its increase in noise pollution, added caustic road salts in winter and accident increase, on this narrow, winding road would be a given. The water draw from the fragile river and the pollution runoff would be significant. The large increase in bodycount with all extra impacts such as resources for electricity wires and light pollution, noise pollution, water and gas demand, cesspit pollution, dog and cat impact on environment and wildlife…..basically this large scale development that would be noticeable in a medium city, adds nothing but a huge depletion of natural resources. We must conserve every blade of grass, tree, animal etc. TODAY…..

    The property at 57 Perkins Row is zoned for 1 house because of the sensitive nature of its land and riverfront. We have a property 2 doors down with more land, not directly on the river and we also are zoned for 1 house because of the location. There are established laws, rules, mandates etc. from Federal, State and Town already in place to protect this very habitat….this is a “good thing” to give voice to the voiceless (voteless)

    The current developer, Mr. Larkin, has a history of environmental abuses and disregard for his past projects and has had cease and desist orders, fines and other violations brought against him…..”when a person shows you who they are…BELIEVE THEM”….

    That this project is still alive and debated on, is an environmental crisis waiting to happen….climate change?….do politicians really take this seriously?….the reason the project STILL has legs is because Mr. Larkin cleverly included 40B units to satisfy the corrupt mandate of the dark political behavior from the top down in our State…..our sacred planet is endangered and is up for grabs to the highest bidder……heartbreaking……

    There is a significant amount of animal migration throughout this land that would be permanently eliminated from the area because they NEED this route for their survival. Forest fragmentation is the death knell for all forest creatures.

    The last paragraph is out of place and should have gone in several paragraphs up on this message…don’t know how it got altered but I don’t know how to get it back in place so I hope you can understand the gist of the letter…but I do thank you for your environmental awareness and involvement….(the real reason for the environmental damage and danger is NOT because cows fart or we eat meat but a much darker, sinister plan for us all….scary….)

  2. Joe Zorzin

    The IPCC report also calls for sustainable forestry practices but you didn’t mention that.
    Joe Zorzin
    MA Forester License #261

  3. Linda Horton

    Not to mention deforestation taking place in Siberia where vast tracts of forests have been sold to the Chinese government who said they are preserving THEIR remaining tracts of China’s forests by cutting down Russia’s trees for their lumber needs. (?!?!?!)
    We have to stop deforestation and begin planting millions of trees worldwide.

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