For decades, Great Peninsula Conservancy has worked to protect forests, streams, shorelines, and community greenspaces.
The future of conservation is in climate resilience. Climate change is expected to have increasingly dramatic impacts on our society, and on the ecosystems and landscapes we depend on.
We’re looking ahead and we’re making a plan for climate resilience. In order to fulfill our mission of protecting and stewarding our lands in perpetuity, GPC is working to integrate climate resilience into our planning processes, conservation work, and stewardship.
Mapping Climate Resilience
Take a look at the map below. Expand the legend by clicking the arrows in the upper left. Here you can see some of the different ways that we can characterize and prioritize the landscapes we care for.
Can you find your favorite GPC preserve? What sorts of lands are protected there? Are they resilient, connected, or both? What about the lands near your home?
Which areas have the most high priority lands? Which areas have the least? Which lands may be the most at risk of losing their conservation value? Based on this information, what would you protect, if you had the chance?
Resilient lands are those identified as likely to maintain function in the face of the changes and stresses put on a system due to climate change. This is based on the physical traits of the land: those lands that contain a diversity of microclimates (which are created by elevation, topography, geology, soils, etc.) will have greater resilience to the stressors brought on by climate change.
Connected lands are those identified as vital corridors across the landscape, which help species to adapt to the impacts of climate change. These lands allow species to migrate or move towards places where conditions and resources are better suited for their survival – which will be necessary when areas that once sustained them for generations are no longer able to do so. In a region rich with peninsulas, connectivity is especially vital for maintaining landscape level linkages across already narrow strips of land, such as the isthmus connecting the Kitsap Peninsula to the Olympic Peninsula southeast of Belfair.
Crucial lands are those deemed to be crucial for preservation as identified in our conservation initiatives below. These are the habitats, working lands, and community greenspaces of our peninsula.
While this spatial analysis can help us understand how to best adapt to the impacts of climate change, there are still many additional reasons to conserve land, including in areas that aren’t identified by the map as climate resilient or connected. GPC continues to be committed to conserving vital lands in all parts of our working region. This climate planning tool is another tool in our conservation toolbox that allows us to ensure that the benefits of nature are protected into the future.
This map was made thanks to funding from the Land Trust Alliance. It was made by GPC staff and Core GIS, a geographic information systems consultant. Together in 2021 we conducted a spatial analysis of GPC’s working region. The analysis relied largely on data from The Nature Conservancy’s Resilient and Connected Landscapes project, which identified resilient and connected lands across North America.
We’ve got a plan
In 2021, Great Peninsula Conservancy updated our five-year Conservation Plan. The conservation team used this map to help us prioritize which lands need to be protected, in order to ensure that the ecosystems of our region stay resilient to climate change.
Read GPC’s 2021-2025 Conservation Plan.
Our plan accounts for the expected impacts of climate change. These include increases in annual temperature, more rain in winter and drought in summer, changes to our streams, reduced water availability, and sea level rise. If left unchecked, each of these impacts can reinforce one another, increasing the damage to our ecosystems.
We’ve developed three conservation initiatives to help prioritize the most valued and threatened landscapes that best reflect the interests, concerns and needs of people who live, work and play on the Great Peninsula. Protecting these lands will strengthen the resilience of our ecosystems and our communities in the face of climate change.
Conservation Initiative I: Habitat
There are more than 578 miles of shorelines, deltas, and estuaries on this peninsula, which support a tremendous diversity of species and create connectivity between different regions. As the sea level rises, nearshore habitat will need to migrate upwards and further inland. It’s not just plants and animals, but geological features like feeder bluffs that are vital to maintaining healthy function and which we seek to protect.
Conservation of streams and freshwater wetlands is important to salmon and trout, and the ecosystems they’re a part of. We’re going to protect the existing stream habitats, and work with partners to restore areas that provide connectivity for isolated habitats. Our wetlands will play a large part in moderating the impacts of climate change, by absorbing excess rain in the winter and releasing it during summer droughts.
Our region’s forests are beautiful, expansive, and at risk. These habitats provide connectivity, sequester carbon, and improve watershed function. High priority will be given to large tracts of intact forest, forests with rare species or community, old growth forests, mature forests, and forests with a diversity of characteristics that make them more resilient to climate change.
Conservation Initiative II: Working Lands
The farms, ranches, and working forests on this great peninsula make up a vital part of the heritage and scenic character of this land. The pressure to develop these lands into residential neighborhoods has increased substantially, and will continue to do so. We protect these lands by taking conservation easements that extinguish development rights, and support landowners in continuing to work their lands and pass them down to the next generation.
Conservation Initiative III: Community Greenspaces
Together we share our community greenspaces and trails, beautiful and accessible spaces where we come together to share our love of nature. These spaces are critical to our well-being and our ability to have a connection with nature; they serve as places to meet one another, collaborate, volunteer, exercise, and learn. As we continue to protect these places, particular attention will need to be paid to underserved and urban communities without historic access to natural areas, so that we can ensure our work benefits all communities in our working area.