An Assessment of Decision-Making Processes: The Feasibility of Incorporating Climate Change Information into Land Protection Planning (Final Report)

Because land protection decisions are long-term, hard to reverse, and resource intensive, these decisions are important to consider in the context of climate change. Climate change may directly affect the services intended for protection and parcel selection can exacerbate or ameliorate certain impacts. Therefore, when considering long-term acquisition strategies, land protection programs should be considering both the mitigation potential of land through carbon sequestration and the adaptation potential of the land for preserving wildlife migration routes, protecting water sources, and buffering infrastructure and development from storm events.

This report examines in detail the decision-making processes of a number of state and local programs that protect land, in order to assess the feasibility of incorporating climate-change impacts into the evaluation of such land protection programs. In some cases, where climate change is being considered in some areas of the program, these incidences are highlighted.

The assessment focused on sample programs that have the goal of protecting wildlife or watersheds. Most programs reviewed use quantitative evaluation criteria and a bottom-up process for selecting parcels. Almost all programs have one or more advisory committees. The analysis revealed several strategies that might be useful for incorporating climate change into decision making, including new decision-support tools for advisory committees, promulgation of different land protection models (e.g., purchase as opposed to transfer of development rights), and educational outreach on the potential use of land protection within a portfolio of adaptation and mitigation strategies. As jurisdictions learn more about possible climate change impacts, certain land protection strategies may become more desirable and feasible as part of a portfolio of adaptation strategies that ameliorate impacts on watersheds and wildlife.

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Publication Date: March 2010

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