Seeking to accelerate land conservation along the Appalachian Mountains to counter climate change and its impacts, the Open Space Institute (OSI) on Monday announced the launch of its $18 million Appalachian Landscapes Protection Fund (ALPF), which will focus, in part, on protecting key sections of Tennessee, Alabama, and Georgia.
The ALPF, initially capitalized with $5.25 million in the tristate area, will provide grants to the local region for the acquisition of land and conservation easements to protect wildlife habitat and store carbon.
Funded projects are also expected to improve recreational access and safeguard clean air and water.
Officials said, "Harnessing the critical role of forests to combat climate change, the ALPF aims to conserve at least 30,000 acres in the tristate area known locally as the Cradle of Southern Appalachia, a seven-million-acre region that has long been a priority for conservation. The ALPF will be guided by a conservation blueprint developed by Thrive Regional Partnership’s Natural Treasures Alliance, a regional collaboration of conservation groups, private businesses, and citizens.
"The Cradle of Southern Appalachia is one of three focus areas of the ALPF, which aims to conserve 50,000 acres along the spine of the Appalachian Mountains - home of the world’s largest broadleaf forest which stores over half of U.S. forest carbon and serves as an essential climate refuge for plants and animals. The other identified target areas of the ALPF are located in the Middle-Atlantic and Northern Appalachians. Altogether, the ALPF seeks to distribute $18 million across the three focus areas, of which $12.5 million has been raised to date."
“The forests of the Southern Appalachians are not only critical for their natural and local heritage, they also protect the land that matters most as we take on the largest environmental challenge of our time — a changing climate,” said Kim Elliman, OSI president and CEO.
"On behalf of Thrive Regional Partnership, we would like to thank the thousands of citizens who took the time over the past several years to convey the importance of protecting natural treasures as a key priority for this region," said Daniel Carter, chair of Thrive Regional Partnership’s Natural Treasures Alliance. "This funding announcement is a direct result of what happens when citizens and local leaders come together to thoughtfully plan for our future."
The ALPF, aimed specifically at protecting some of the nation’s most biologically rich and climate-resilient landscapes, aligns with the federal government’s recently announced plan to conserve 30 percent of U.S. land and waters by the year 2030 to leverage natural climate solutions, protect biodiversity, and slow extinction rates.
The Fund builds on more than a decade of successful conservation in the region. Since 2008, OSI has assisted in the protection of almost 40,000 acres of land in the Tennessee, Georgia, and Alabama tristate area, it was stated.
Officials said, "In order to achieve critical, climate-related conservation goals, OSI is providing grants and loans for the acquisition of land and conservation easements that will leverage an additional $66 million in matching public and private funds. The ALPF also advances efforts by states, local communities, Native American tribes, and land trusts, to align their conservation goals around climate priorities. The ALPF will ease funding requirements for organizations that identify as black, indigenous, and people of color-led that are at heightened risk of being negatively impacted by the climate crisis.