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Climate Change Plots Conservation Efforts in Oregon

The Nature Conservancy is teaming up with a local land trust to protect part of Tillamook Head, a region identified as resilient as climate change worsens. (OCVA/Flickr)
The Nature Conservancy is teaming up with a local land trust to protect part of Tillamook Head, a region identified as resilient as climate change worsens. (OCVA/Flickr)
March 15, 2017

SEASIDE, Ore. – 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 refuges by protecting lands that will be most resilient as global temperatures rise.

The Nature Conservancy has created maps covering more than 350,000 square miles of land in the Northwest that it has identified as especially sustainable in the decades to come. With the help of $6 million from the Doris Duke Charitable Foundation, the organization is working with local land trusts to protect these lands.

Katie Voelke, the North Coast Land Conservancy's executive director in Oregon, says connecting landscapes is key.

"As the climate changes and species need to shift up or down or around, there's space for them to do that," she said.

Voelke's organization has received $200,000 from The Nature Conservancy to preserve and connect part of the region near Tillamook Head on Oregon's coast. 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 senior conservation planner with The Nature Conservancy. He says climate change is going to 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 are most resilient are those that host 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 explained.

Most of the resiliency mapping in the Northwest covered Oregon, Washington and Idaho.

Eric Tegethoff, Public News Service - OR